Lazy Caturday Reads

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Good Morning!!

We’ve reached the end of another week in the post-Trump era, and we continue to deal with crises that developed and worsened during the monster’s regime. It’s clear that it will take a long time to recover–if recovery is even possible. On the plus side, it’s great to have a normal president again–a person with empathy and compassion–and a caring, engaged first lady, and White House pets!

Biden’s Covid relief package appears to be on track for passage, despite the efforts of Republicans in Congress. The New York Times: Republicans Struggle to Derail Increasingly Popular Stimulus Package.

Republicans are struggling to persuade voters to oppose President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan, which enjoys strong, bipartisan support nationwide even as it is moving through Congress with just Democratic backing.

Democrats who control the House are preparing to approve the package by the end of next week, with the Senate aiming to soon follow with its own party-line vote before unemployment benefits are set to lapse in mid-March. On Friday, the House Budget Committee unveiled the nearly 600-page text for the proposal, which includes billions of dollars for unemployment benefits, small businesses and stimulus checks.

Republican leaders, searching for a way to derail the proposal, on Friday led a final attempt to tarnish the package, labeling it a “payoff to progressives.” The bill, they said, spends too much and includes a liberal wish list of programs like aid to state and local governments — which they call a “blue state bailout,” though many states facing shortfalls are controlled by Republicans — and increased benefits for the unemployed, which they argued would discourage people from looking for work.

f41e011b0d7776d62868846f4192e37dOut in the real world, even Republican voters support the relief bill.

More than 7 in 10 Americans now back Mr. Biden’s aid package, according to new polling from the online research firm SurveyMonkey for The New York Times. That includes support from three-quarters of independent voters, 2 in 5 Republicans and nearly all Democrats. The overall support for the bill is even larger than the substantial majority of voters who said in January that they favored an end-of-year economic aid bill signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

While Mr. Biden has encouraged Republican lawmakers to get on board with his package, Democrats are moving their bill through Congress using a parliamentary process that will allow them to pass it with only Democratic votes.

“Critics say my plan is too big, that it cost $1.9 trillion dollars; that’s too much,” Mr. Biden said at an event on Friday. “Let me ask them, what would they have me cut?”

House Republican leaders on Friday urged their rank-and-file members to vote against the plan, billing it as Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California’s “Payoff to Progressives Act.” They detailed more than a dozen objections to the bill, including “a third round of stimulus checks costing more than $422 billion, which will include households that have experienced little or no financial loss during the pandemic.” Ms. Pelosi’s office issued its own rebuttal soon after, declaring “Americans need help. House Republicans don’t care.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is moving forward with it’s investigation of Trump’s finances. Reuters: Exclusive: New York City tax agency subpoenaed in Trump criminal probe.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has subpoenaed a New York City property tax agency as part of a criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s company, the agency confirmed on Friday, suggesting prosecutors are examining the former president’s efforts to reduce his commercial real-estate taxes for possible evidence of fraud.

The subpoena issued to the New York City Tax Commission is the latest indication that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. is looking at the values Trump assigned to some commercial properties in tax filings and loan documents.

photo-of-snow-catAlong with information already subpoenaed from creditors, the tax agency documents would help investigators determine whether Trump’s business inflated the value of his properties to secure favorable terms on loans while deflating those values to lower tax bills for those same properties….

The subpoena likely would compel the agency to provide detailed income and expense statements the Trump Organization would have filed as part of an effort to lower tax assessments on some of its commercial properties, according to people familiar with the commission’s operations. Trump’s holdings include Trump Tower and Trump Plaza.

Those filings typically would include valuations submitted by the company to challenge the market values assigned to Trump’s property by the city’s tax assessors, they added.

Subpoenas also have been issued to at least two creditors that helped finance Trump’s real-estate holdings, Deutsche Bank AG and Ladder Capital Finance LLC, Reuters has previously reported.

The Federal investigation into the January 6 insurrection is continuing to heat up. 

The Washington Post: U.S. investigating possible ties between Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Capitol rioters.

The Justice Department and FBI are investigating whether high-profile right-wing figures — including Roger Stone and Alex Jones — may have played a role in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach as part of a broader look into the mind-set of those who committed violence and their apparent paths to radicalization, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The investigation into potential ties between key figures in the riot and those who promoted former president Donald Trump’s false assertions that the election was stolen from him does not mean those who may have influenced rioters will face criminal charges, particularly given U.S. case law surrounding incitement and free speech, the people said. Officials at this stage said they are principally seeking to understand what the rioters were thinking — and who may have influenced beliefs — which could be critical to showing their intentions at trial.

769e257ae7490ca39b79e8e4d1bbe242However, investigators also want to determine whether anyone who influenced them bears enough responsibility to justify potential criminal charges, such as conspiracy or aiding the effort, the officials said. That prospect is still distant and uncertain, they emphasized.

Nevertheless, while Trump’s impeachment trial focused on the degree of his culpability for the violence, this facet of the case shows investigators’ ongoing interest in other individuals who never set foot in the Capitol but may have played an outsized role in what happened there through their influence, networks or action.

“We are investigating potential ties between those physically involved in the attack on the Capitol and individuals who may have influenced them, such as Roger Stone, Alex Jones and [Stop the Steal organizer] Ali Alexander,” said a U.S. official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a pending matter.

The Washington Post: U.S. Alleges Wider Oath Keepers Conspiracy, Adds More Defendants in Jan. 6 Capitol Riot.

U.S. authorities on Friday alleged a broader conspiracy by Oath Keepers to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, charging six new individuals who appeared to be members or associates of the right-wing group.

One self-described leader in the group, which recruits among military and law enforcement, sent a Facebook message claiming at least 50 to 100 Oath Keepers planned to travel to D.C. with him on Jan. 6 and that they would “make it wild,” echoing a comment President Donald Trump made on Twitter rallying supporters to the Capitol.

A 21-page indictment alleged that the defendants “did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and others known and unknown” to force entry to the Capitol and obstruct Congress from certifying the election of Joe Biden as president in riots that led to five deaths and assaults on 139 police.

The nine-person indictment named three already charged military veterans — Jessica Marie Watkins, 38, and Donovan Ray Crowl, 50, both of Woodstock, Ohio; and Thomas E. Caldwell, 66, of Berryville, Va. The six new defendants include siblings Graydon Young, 54, of Englewood, Fla., and Laura Steele, of Thomasville, N.C. It also includes married couples Kelly and Connie Meggs, 52 and 59, of Dunnellon, Fla.; and Bennie and Sandra Parker, 70 and 60, of the Cincinnati area.

More details at the WaPo link.

74b47b2bb2069367067776f258164a25Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: The Capitol Rioters Are Starting To Face Much More Serious Charges For The Insurrection.

Bruno Cua, an 18-year-old from Milton, Georgia, was already facing serious charges when he was arrested on Feb. 6 in connection with the insurrection at the US Capitol a month earlier. He was accused not only of illegally entering the Capitol but also of assaulting police and of obstructing Congress’s efforts to certify the presidential election, which are felony crimes.

But it only got worse for Cua when a federal grand jury in Washington, DC, returned an indictment four days later. On top of the original set of charges, the grand jury bumped up misdemeanor counts he’d faced for entering the Capitol to felonies, citing evidence that he’d carried a “deadly and dangerous weapon” — in his case, a baton. The addition of a “weapons enhancement” meant the maximum sentence he faced for those counts jumped tenfold, from one year in prison to 10.

Cua is one of a growing number of defendants charged in the insurrection seeing their felony counts — and potential prison time — stack up as the investigation presses on. Other defendants only charged with misdemeanors when they were arrested are now facing felonies post-indictment. Acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin in Washington had told reporters one week after the assault on the Capitol that the early rounds of arrests on misdemeanor charges were “only the beginning,” and promised more “significant charges” once prosecutors took these cases before a grand jury. New court documents in cases such as Cua’s show how that’s taking shape.

Of the more than 230 people charged to date, at least 70 are now facing a minimum of one felony count — the most common is obstruction of Congress, which has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. More than 30 are charged with assaulting or interfering with law enforcement officers, and at least 14 are charged with carrying or using a weapon that day. Weapons identified in the government’s court filings so far have included knives, Tasers, a hockey stick, a large metal pipe, baseball bats, fire extinguishers, and batons.

Now that Trump is gone, the Feds are admitting how dangerous right-wing extremism is.

Yahoo News: Feds now say right-wing extremists responsible for majority of deadly terrorist attacks last year.

The U.S. government is acknowledging for the first time that right-wing extremists were responsible for the majority of fatal domestic terrorist attacks last year, according to an internal report circulated by the Department of Homeland Security last week and obtained by Yahoo News.

cat-snowmanA review of last year’s domestic terrorist incidents by a DHS fusion center — which shares threat-related information between federal, state and local partners — found that although civil unrest and antigovernment violence were associated with “non-affiliated, right-wing and left-wing actors, right-wing [domestic violent extremists] were responsible for the majority of fatal attacks in the Homeland in 2020.”

The report, produced by the Joint Regional Intelligence Center, a DHS-funded fusion center, was sent out to police and law enforcement agencies nationwide as part of an intelligence-sharing system created after the 9/11 attacks.

While independent think tanks and outside groups have been pointing to the rise in ring-wing violence for some time, this appears to be the first known instance of an official government or law enforcement agency clearly acknowledging the trend, though senior officials have noted the rise in white supremacist attacks. The report also comes not long after the end of the Trump administration, which was criticized for downplaying right-wing violence.

So . . . lots happening this weekend. I’ll add more stories in the comment thread. What’s on your mind today?


Biden Announces He’s Not Running for POTUS

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Unfortunately, after making this clear, Biden rambled on interminably as his wife and President Obama gritted their teeth and looked embarrassed. I didn’t think Biden would ever stop. Interestingly, Obama had nothing to say. I had gotten the impression that he was going to speak about Biden’s decision.

I’m thinking what must have happened is that Obama called Biden in and told him to stop undermining the serious candidates as well as Secretary of State Kerry and quit playing game with the media. But Biden acted as if he is everyone’s choice and he needed to advise all the other candidates on what needs to be done. It was painful.

Thank goodness it’s over.

Post your thoughts and links below. It should be interesting reading the media reactions.

 


Monday Reads: Party Nomination Races Beginning to Heat Up

Worlds Full of Lemons by Vitaly-Urzhumov

Worlds Full of Lemons by Vitaly-Urzhumov

Good Morning!!

Following last week’s marathon “debate,” Republican presidential candidates have continued to spread hate everywhere they go.

Current front runners Donald Trump and Ben Carson are pushing hatred of Muslims, along with insinuations that we already have one in the White House.

Bloomberg Politics: Donald Trump on Muslims: ‘Are You Trying to Say We Don’t Have a Problem?’

Trump, the front runner for the 2016 Republican nomination, was asked on CNN’s State of the Union about his campaign rally in New Hampshire on Thursday. At the event, an audience member said President Barack Obama was a Muslim, that the U.S. has a problem with Muslims, and asked “when can we get rid of them?” At Thursday’s event and again on CNN, Trump did not criticize or correct the question.

“We could be politically correct if you want,” Trump said. “Are you trying to say we don’t have a problem?” ….

“We have radicals that are doing things,” he said. “It wasn’t people from Sweden that blew up the World Trade Center.”

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On This Week, continued his anti-Muslim ranting. Bloomberg reports:

On ABC’s “This Week” broadcast, Trump again referred to “a worldwide problem” with Muslims, according to a transcript provided by the network.

“You look around the world, it is a problem,” Trump said.  “You know, the terrorism and everything else, it seems to be pretty much confined there.”

Trump also declined several times during the ABC interview to say that he believed Obama was born in the U.S.

Lovely. I guess Trump hasn’t noticed all the domestic terrorists here in the U.S. Dylann Roof, for example is no Muslim.

From the transcript of This Week, Jonathan Karl reports on a Trump appearance in Iowa at a high school homecoming.

KARL (voice-over): Trump didn’t challenge his supporter’s false claim about the president’s background….

KARL (voice-over): But Trump has no apologies. He recited his Twitter account for an Iowa crowd on Saturday.

TRUMP: So I started by saying, “Am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don’t think so.”

Right?

KARL (voice-over): So is Donald Trump playing with fire? Or simply playing to his base?

A recent poll shows more than half of Trump’s supporters believe President Obama is Muslim and 28 percent of Republicans think the president wasn’t born in the U.S. Even Trump has admitted his conspiracy theories over the president’s birth are part of his appeal, as he told me two years ago.

KARL: You don’t acknowledge that you went overboard on this whole birther stuff?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Actually, I think it made me very popular, if you want to know the truth, OK? So I do think I know what I’m doing.

Yes, Trump is spreading hate, and he knows exactly what he’s doing.

Carson

And then there’s Ben Carson. The Guardian: Ben Carson says no Muslim should ever become US president.

The Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has said no Muslim should be president of the United States of America.

In an interview with NBC for broadcast on Sunday morning, the retired neurosurgeon said: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Carson’s discussion with Meet the Press host Chuck Todd centered around controversy that arose this week when Donald Trump – the real-estate mogul keeping Carson in second place in the pollsfailed to correct an audience member at a New Hampshire campaign rally who said President Obama was a Muslim.

The audience member also appeared to advocate the forcible removal of Muslims from the US….

In his NBC interview, Carson was asked: “So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?”

“No,” he said, “I don’t, I do not.”

Article VI of the US constitution states: “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The first amendment to the constitution begins: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

What does Carson think about Muslims as Congresspeople?

Carson was also asked if he would consider voting for a Muslim candidate for Congress.

He said: “Congress is a different story, but it depends on who that Muslim is and what they’re policies are, just as it depends on what anybody else says, you know.”

Two members of Congress, both Democrats, are Muslim: Keith Ellison of Minnesota was elected to the House of Representatives in 2007 and André Carson of Indiana followed in 2008.

Fortunately, neither of these freaks is likely to be president or even see the inside of the White House anytime soon.

Walker

Fading presidential candidate Scott Walker’s hatred is focused on labor unions. From The American Prospect: A Desperate Scott Walker Brings Anti-Labor Crusade to National Stage.

Earlier this week, Republican presidential contender Scott Walker detailed how he would bring his anti-labor crusade to the federal level, unveiling an expansive plan that would eliminate the National Labor Relations Board, ban federal public sector unions, and make the United States a right-to-work country, among a host of other anti-worker policies he said would give “power to the people, not the union bosses.” ….

As recently as July, Walker was leading the polls in Iowa. He’s since plummeted to the bottom of the Iowa field with just 3 percent support. Worse yet, as he admitted after yesterday’s debate, his entire campaign is premised on winning the Iowa caucuses, which kick-off the contest for delegates. “I think we’re putting all our eggs in the basket of Iowa, we’re committed to Iowa, and I think that’ll help us make the case all throughout the country,” Walker told MSNBC .

With Walker following a similar downward spiral as the announcement of his anti-labor plan appears to be an attempt at to lock-down uneasy big-money donors who stand to benefit from gutting worker rights. Walker needs to ensure that he will remain funded well into the primary season.

“The way the system is now set up, to stay alive, you have to really convince your relatively few big donors to stay in the game,” says Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center. “[His plan] seems to be aimed at the donors, not the public.”

Hillary1

Hillary Clinton appeared on Face The Nation yesterday. Here’s the transcript of the interview. And here are the headlines in the corporate media.

Buzzfeed News: Hillary Clinton Calls For The U.S. To Take In 65,000 Syrian Refugees.

Hillary Clinton said Sunday the U.S. should commit to taking in 65,000 Syrian refugees next financial year, a significantly higher number than the 10,000 the Obama administration has announced it will accept.

“We’re facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II, and I think the United States has to do more, and I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000, to begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people that we would take in,” Clinton told Face the Nation moderator John Dickerson on Sunday….

Clinton said on Sunday that the U.S. should prioritize taking in the most vulnerable — including, she says, Christians and Yazidi women — before repeating her call for a global meeting to address the issue.

“I also want the United States to lead the world, and I’ve recommended at the upcoming U.N. General Assembly there be an international meeting called by the secretary general and literally get people to commit [to] putting money in, helping the frontline states like Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon who’ve absorbed a lot refugees, working with the EU and the European countries, but getting everybody to make a contribution,” Clinton said.

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Real Clear Politics: Hillary Clinton: “I Cannot Imagine Anyone Being More Of An Outsider Than The First Woman President.”

In an interview with John Dickerson, moderator of CBS’s Face the Nation, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she can claim outsider status since she could possibly be the first female president.

“In politics this year, it looks like everything wants an outsider,” Dickerson said. “Now that puts you in a fix.”

“Tell us why this doesn’t put you in a fix,” Dickerson said to laughter from Clinton.

“I cannot imagine anyone being more of an outsider than the first woman president,” Clinton stated. “I mean, really, let’s think about that.”

CBS News: “I am a real person,” Hillary Clinton says.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was stumped Sunday when “Face the Nation” moderator John Dickerson asked her to name three words that describe “the real Hillary Clinton.”

“Just three? I can’t possibly do that!” Clinton said, throwing hear head back with laughter. “I mean, look, I am a real person with all the pluses and minuses that go along with being that. And I’ve been in the public eye for so long that I think, you know, it’s like the feature that you see in some magazines sometimes, ‘Real people actually go shopping,’ you know?”

Hillary2

On Dickerson’s question about voters wanting an outsider as president:

“I know you’re asking, ‘Do we want people who have never been elected to anything, who have no political experience, who have never made any hard choices in the public area?'” she told moderator John Dickerson. “Well, voters are going to have to decide that.”

She also addressed criticism that she is too deep inside the political system to help reorient the economy back toward the middle class.

“I have an economic policy that is centered on raising incomes, because I think what we inherited from the Bush administration, what President Obama had to deal with, had the potential of becoming a ‘Great Depression,’ not just a ‘Great Recession,'” Clinton said. “We have now recovered 13 million jobs after losing 800,000 a month when he came into office. So why would we go back to the same policies? Call them insider, call them tilted toward the rich, call them giving corporations a free pass to do whatever they want. I’m against that, I’ve always been against that.”

She added, “So you know, I’m not running for Bill’s third term, I’m not running for President Obama’s third term, but it would be foolish of me not to say, ‘You know, that worked better than what the Republicans offer.'”

Biden

Channel 10 News Tampa Bay: Hillary Clinton: I’m not preparing for Joe Biden.

Hillary Clinton said she and her team are not taking steps to prepare for a possible late entry into the Democratic presidential primary by Vice President Joe Biden.

“This is such a personal decision and the vice president has to sort this out,” Clinton said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “He’s been so open in talking about how difficult this time is for him and his family and he’s obviously considering what he wants to do including whether he wants to run.”

“I just have the greatest respect and affection for him and I think everybody just ought to give him the space to decide what’s best for his family,” she added.

Biden met with political advisers Monday at his residence in Washington, D.C. as part of his ongoing conversation with family, friends and staff over whether to jump into the 2016 presidential race.

Over the last few days, some Democratic donors have also calls for the vice president to mount a challenge to Clinton.

According to Chuck Todd and friends, Biden’s wife has given him her blessing to joint the presidential race.

Contrary to reports suggesting Vice President Joe Biden’s wife remains an obstacle to his potential presidential run, sources tell NBC News that Jill Biden is fully behind him for another bid.

Jill Biden, sources tell NBC’s Chuck Todd, is 100 percent on-board with a presidential run, despite reports indicating her hesitation is part of what’s keeping Biden from jumping into the race.

And that looks more likely by the day, as sources have indicated Biden’s been meeting with Democratic leaders during his travels around the nation over the past week to tell them he wants to do it and thinks there’s room for him to make a credible bid if he does.

The key question that’s still weighing on his mind as he decides whether to make another go of it: Does he have the emotional energy to give it his all, sources say.

Whatever. I still don’t think he’ll do it. Apparently he thinks he needs to make up his mind by October 1, so we won’t have to listen to the speculation much longer.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?