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“Late Term Abortion”

The Washington Post points out there is no precise medical or legal definition of “late-term,” and “many doctors and scientists avoid that language, calling it imprecise and misleading.”

The Daily Beast also notes that only 1.3 percent of abortions are performed after 21 weeks of gestation, and the idea that a woman can get an abortion moments before giving birth is “not how medical care works.”

The use of “dog whistles” aka “coded” labels has been common for many years but until recently has been out of the mainstream of conversation. The current administration aided by a neer do well Congress has brought these “coded” statements and words to common use. Along with this common usage the administration has trashed agreements put in place to prevent war and improve trade. Tariffs (taxes) put in place to offset the “tax” policy that was supposed to benefit everyday Americans and threats to bad actors who were in a state of containment with the approval of our now alienated allies. The administration has in a few years undermined our economy, foreign affairs and put us on an isolation footing all because of “dog whistles”.

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Heather Cox RichardsonAug 12

Since Monday’s search of former president Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property by the FBI, Trump, Trump supporters, and right-wing media have all been accusing the government of executing a political vendetta and speculating that FBI agents might have planted evidence on the property. 

This afternoon, Attorney General Merrick Garland gave a brief press conference in which he announced that the unjustified attacks on the Department of Justice (DOJ) have led it to file a motion to unseal the search warrant the FBI used and a redacted version of the receipt for the things removed from the premises. He also confirmed that copies of the warrant and the property receipt were left with Trump, as regulations require. Had Trump wanted to release them, he could have…and he still can, at any time.

Contrary to right-wing reports, Trump’s lawyer was at Mar-a-Lago during the search, which a federal court authorized after finding probable cause. Garland said that he personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant, and he also pointed out that the Department of Justice did not publicize the search; the former president did. Because of the public interest in the matter—and to clear up confusion over it—the department is asking a judge to unseal the documents.

Garland also defended FBI agents against attacks on them, saying, “The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants. Every day they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism, and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights. They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves.” 

Garland explained the principle at stake. “Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy. Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without fear or favor. Under my watch that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing. All Americans are entitled to the evenhanded application of the law, to due process of the law, and to the presumption of innocence.” 

He also reminded people that “the Department of Justice will speak through its court filings and its work.”

The DOJ motion to unseal the search warrant tells us a bit more. It was signed by U.S. Attorney Juan Gonzalez and by Jay Bratt, the chief of the department’s counterintelligence section. The motion also throws the ball into Trump’s court, saying “the former President should have an opportunity to respond to this Motion and lodge objections….” This boxes Trump in. He and his supporters have been demanding the documents be released, although  the DOJ cannot release them and Trump can. This motion means that the DOJ has made a strong case to get permission to release them…unless Trump objects. Essentially, the DOJ just called his bluff. 

At the New York Times, Katie Benner reported that already “Trump allies are discussing the possibility of challenging the Justice Department’s motion to unseal the Mar-a-Lago search warrant. They have contacted outside lawyers about helping them.” 

This should play out quickly: a judge this afternoon told the DOJ to discuss with Trump’s lawyer whether Trump objects to unsealing the documents and to let the judge know by 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. Tonight, Trump said he would not oppose the document’s release, but he didn’t release them himself, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Another right-wing talking point about the search fell apart today as well. Fox News Channel personalities have argued that the Justice Department should simply have issued a subpoena for the material. “Get a subpoena, he will give it back,” Jesse Watters said. “It’s not like Trump won’t cooperate.” But in fact it turns out the DOJ did deliver a subpoena two months ago, and the former president did not comply.

For all the loud protests of Trump supporters over the search, other Republicans—even ones who were previously Team Trump—seem to be backing away. Today, Fox News Channel contributor and former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush Ari Fleischer tweeted: “One thing I can’t wrap my arms around: If Trump had classified documents, why didn’t he give them back? Maybe he thought they were declassified. Maybe he thought it was government overreach. But if, for whatever reason, you have a classified document at home, you give it back.” 

For his part, Trump tried to suggest his own retention of documents was not nearly as bad as that of former president Barack Obama, who, Trump alleged, took “33 Million pages of documents…to Chicago.” He is referring to the materials for the Obama presidential library, which have been moved from the National Archives and Records Administration with its permission and cooperation.

Tonight, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Perry Stein, and Shane Harris at the Washington Post broke the story that the FBI agents at Mar-a-Lago were looking for documents relating to nuclear weapons, underscoring that the search was imperative. We don’t know any more than that, and heaven knows that’s bad enough. 

But what springs to mind for me is the plan pushed by Trump’s first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and fundraiser and campaign advisor Tom Barrack, to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. In 2019, whistleblowers from the National Security Council worried that their efforts might have broken the law and that the effort to make the transfer was ongoing. The plan was to enable Saudi leaders to build nuclear power plants, a plan that would have yielded billions of dollars to the investors but would have allowed Saudi Arabia to build nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, Zachary Cohen, Jamie Gangel, Sara Murray, and Pamela Brown of CNN report that the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has interviewed the former secretary of transportation in the Trump administration, Elaine Chao, and is in discussions with former education secretary Betsy DeVos and former national security advisor Robert O’Brien. Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo met with the committee on Tuesday. At least nine Cabinet-level officials either have talked to the committee or are negotiating the terms of interviews. One of the topics has been the attempt to remove Trump through the 25th Amendment after the events of January 6. 

The lies about the FBI and the January 6th attack on the Capitol came together today and took a life. Ricky Walter Shiffer, who appears to have been at the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, shot into the FBI field office in Cincinnati with a nail gun this morning while brandishing an AR-15-style weapon. After the attack, he took refuge in a cornfield, where law enforcement officers killed him this afternoon.

Notes:

Kyle Cheney @kyledcheneyMORE: The motion to unseal was signed by U.S. Attorney Juan Gonzalez and Jay Bratt, chief of DOJ’s counterintelligence section. DOJ is also moving to unseal a “redacted Property Receipt listing items seized pursuant to the search.”August 11th 2022559 Retweets2,087 Likes

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/armed-man-shoots-fbi-cincinnati-building-nail-gun-flees-leading-inters-rcna42669

https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/11/politics/elaine-chao-trump-cabinet-january-6-25th-amendment/index.html

Ari Fleischer @AriFleischerOne thing I can’t wrap my arms around: If Trump had classified documents, why didn’t he give them back? Maybe he thought they were declassified. Maybe he thought it was government overreach. But if, for whatever reason, you have a classified document at home, you give it back.August 11th 20221,000 Retweets10,579 Likes

Chris Jansing @ChrisJansingThe suspect who attacked the FBI field office in Cincinnati has been killed by law enforcement, according to two officials familiar with the matter. His name is Ricky Walter Shiffer. He was at the Capitol on Jan. 6. @NBCNewsAugust 11th 20229,214 Retweets31,950 Likes

https://www.mediamatters.org/fox-news/fox-complained-feds-should-have-subpoenaed-trumps-documents-seeking-search-warrant-they

Charlie Savage @charlie_savageThe judge says he wants DOJ to give a copy of its motion to Trump’s lawyer and then to tell him by 3 p.m. tomorrow whether Trump objects to unsealing the docs. August 11th 2022399 Retweets1,317 Likes

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/11/garland-trump-mar-a-lago/

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/flynn-backed-plan-transfer-nuclear-tech-saudis-may-have-broken-n973021

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https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5743767-House-Oversight-Whistleblowers-Saudi-Nuclear.html

Maggie Haberman @maggieNYTTrump not opposing warrant release August 12th 20221,007 Retweets3,583 Likes

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It should be apparent that the GOP has regressed back to their mindsets immediately after the “war between the states”. The GOP has ascribed the actions they took while in the majority to what the DEMs are doing or want to do. They have stated that the DEM’s will “pack” SCOTUS among other actions (we currently have Amy, Brett, Samuel and Clarence). It is unfortunate that too many Americans take no notice of the damage done by the GOP for the past 50 plus years when they were in the majority. It is time to revisit history to understand that the post-civil war mindsets are alive and well in spite of evidence showing the error of their ways.MA

August 9, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Aug 10This afternoon, Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) said the FBI has confiscated his phone after presenting him with a search warrant.

Perry was deeply involved in the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He connected former president Trump with Jeffrey Clark, the environmental lawyer for the Department of Justice (DOJ) who supported Trump’s claims and who would have become acting attorney general if the leadership of the DOJ hadn’t threatened to resign as a group if Trump appointed him. Cassidy Hutchinson, former top aide to Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, told the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol that Meadows burned papers after a meeting with Perry.

The DOJ searched Clark’s home in June. On the same day, it seized the phone of John Eastman, the author of the memo laying out a plan for then–vice president Mike Pence to refuse to count presidential electors for Democratic candidate Joe Biden and thus throw the election to Trump.

Eastman sued to get his phone back and to force the government to destroy any information agents had taken from it; the Department of Justice says the phone was obtained legally and that purging it would be “unprecedented” and “would cause substantial detriment to the investigation, as well as seriously impede any grand jury’s use of the seized material in a future charging decision.” A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for early September.

Trump and his supporters have spent the day complaining bitterly about yesterday’s search of Mar-a-Lago by the FBI, painting it an illegal “witch hunt” and threatening to launch a “revolution” over it. A search warrant requires a judge to sign off on the idea that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and that a search will provide evidence of that crime. While the FBI cannot release the search warrant, Trump has a copy of it and could release it if he wanted to.

Legal analyst Andrew Weissmann, who spent 20 years at the Department of Justice, pointed out on Twitter that the law requires the FBI to give Trump an inventory of what they found. If indeed he wants to claim the search was a witch hunt and he had no government property in his home, he should release the search inventory.

Kyle Cheney at Politico noted that on January 19, 2021, the day before he left office, Trump revoked the authority he had previously given and named seven new loyalists as his representatives to the National Archives with regard to his presidential records. They were Meadows; then–White House counsel Pat Cipollone; then–deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin; lawyer John Eisenberg, who as legal advisor to the National Security Council tried to keep the story about Trump’s call to Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky under wraps; Scott Gast, also of the White House counsel’s office during Trump’s term; lawyer Michael Purpura; and lawyer Steven Engel, who argued that Congress could not subpoena White House advisors.

Meanwhile, Sadie Gurman, Alex Leary, and Aruna Viswanatha of the Wall Street Journal reported today that the Mar-a-Lago search came out of the concern of federal agents that Trump had not returned all the classified documents he took from the White House. In January of this year, the National Archives and Records Administration retrieved 15 boxes of material, including records that had been torn into pieces. Yesterday, federal officials retrieved about 10 more boxes.

Tonight, Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) told Fox News Channel personality Laura Ingraham that 12 Republican members of the House of Representatives met with Trump tonight, told him they stand with him, and urged him to run for president in 2024. They want to see Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as speaker of the house and Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) as chair of the Judiciary Committee.

Three judges from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a ruling from a lower court that said the House Ways and Means Committee can see Trump’s tax returns. The committee began the journey to look at them back in 2019. Trump can appeal to the full bench or to the Supreme Court. The House Ways and Means Committee said it expects “to receive the requested tax returns and audit files immediately.”

Today, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 into law. The new measure will provide $52.7 billion in subsidies to semiconductor production in the U.S. and invest in science and technology. Biden noted that with signing of the bill into law, Micron would announce a $40 billion investment in new chip-manufacturing facilities in the United States through the end of the decade, and GlobalFoundries and Qualcomm “announced yesterday a $4 billion partnership to produce chips in the U.S. that would otherwise have gone overseas.”

“Fundamental change is taking place today—politically, economically, and technologically—change that can either strengthen our sense of control and security, of dignity and pride in our lives, in our nation; or—or change that weakens us so that people are left behind, causing them to question whether or not the very institutions—our economy, our democracy itself — can still deliver for them, for everybody,” Biden said.

Pleased to be signing the bill that invests in our technological future into law, Biden said: “[D]ecades from now, people are going to look back at this week, with all we’ve passed and all we’ve moved on, that we met the moment at this inflection point in history—a moment when we bet on ourselves, believed in ourselves, and recaptured the story, the spirit, and the soul of this nation. We are the United States of America, a singular place of possibilities…. I promise you, we’re leading the world again for the next decades.”—Notes: Andrew Weissmann @AWeissmann_The FBI is required to give to Trump an inventory of what was found in the search; if Trump claims he had no govt property in his home and this is a witch hunt, then he should release the search inventory. Time to put up or shut up……August 9th 202212,948 Retweets61,873 Likeshttps://www.wsj.com/articles/fbi-search-of-trumps-florida-home-mar-a-lago-is-criticized-by-republicans-11660049490https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/appeals-court-house-ways-and-means-committee-trump-tax-returnsWays & Means Committee @WaysMeansCmte🚨 🚨 🚨 BREAKING: The DC Court of Appeals has just ruled that the law is on our side in seeking Trump’s tax returns. We expect to receive the requested tax returns and audit files immediately. cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opini…August 9th 20226,697 Retweets28,575 Likeshttps://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/trump-allied-lawyer-pushed-pence-overturn-election-says-federal-agents-rcna35601https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/08/doj-pushes-against-eastman-cellphone-00050419https://lawandcrime.com/2020-election/trump-lawyer-john-eastmans-request-for-destruction-of-evidence-could-impede-future-charging-decision-doj-says/Kyle Griffin @kylegriffin1In the wake of President Biden signing the CHIPS bill, Micron announced that it will spend $40 billion on new chip-manufacturing facilities in the United States through the end of the decade.August 9th 20224,538 Retweets25,101 Likeshttps://www.reuters.com/technology/biden-sign-bill-boost-us-chips-compete-with-china-2022-08-09/https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/08/09/remarks-by-president-biden-at-signing-of-h-r-4346-the-chips-and-science-act-of-2022/Barb McQuade @BarbMcQuadeThe law prohibits DOJ from discussing a search warrant that is under seal. Secrecy rules are designed to protect the person under investigation. You know who could discuss it? Donald Trump, who would have received a copy of the inventory of items seized. Hugo Lowell @hugolowellNew: Senate GOP Leader McConnell: “The country deserves a thorough and immediate explanation of what led to the events of Monday. Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice should already have provided answers to the American people and must do so immediately.”August 10th 20222,798 Retweets8,821 LikesAaron Rupar @atruparJim Banks tells Ingraham that a dozen House Republicans met with Trump tonight at Bedminster, told him they stand with him & encouraged him to run for POTUS. He says they talked about Kevin McCarthy being Speaker and Jim Jordan being chair of the Judiciary Committee. God forbid. August 10th 2022245 Retweets1,089 Likeshttps://www.archives.gov/files/foia/wh-ltr-to-u.s.-archivist-trump-pra-rep-1.19.2021.pdf

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Analysis by Amber Phillips 

Staff writer 

August 26, 2021 at 7:27 p.m. EDT 

This has been updated with the latest. 

With the withdrawal from Afghanistan turning deadly for U.S. troops, President Biden faces new criticism for a situation that he argues presents him few options. 

The deal that President Donald Trump cut last year with the Taliban forced Biden to choose between a withdrawal now or an escalation of the war, Biden said Thursday, as he addressed the nation after at least 13 members of the U.S. military were killed in Kabul. 

He chose to withdraw. 

“I had only one alternative,” he said, “to send thousands more troops back into Afghanistan to fight a war that we had already won, relative to the reason why we went in the first place.” 

When the deal was cut in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020, it wasn’t treated as huge news, because the war itself wasn’t big news. So many people don’t actually know its contents. 

Here is what’s in it and how it has been perceived.: ‘These ISIS terrorists will not win’ 

0:5 

Why Trump cut the deal 

When Trump came into office, he was pretty transparent — he just wanted out of Afghanistan. “Trump had no real sense of what was at stake in the war or why to stay,” writes Georgetown professor Paul Miller in a digestible history of the 20-year war

So Trump took a swing at something his predecessors hadn’t: a full-bore effort to strike a deal with the Taliban. It took nine rounds of talks over 18 months. At one point, Trump secretly invited the Taliban to the presidential retreat at Camp David on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But he shut that down — and on Twitter threatened to shut down all talks — after an American service member was killed and there was bipartisan backlash over the invitation. 

Talks continued in Doha, and in February 2020, Trump announced that there was a deal. The basic contours: The United States was to get out of Afghanistan in 14 months and, in exchange, the Taliban agreed not to let Afghanistan become a haven for terrorists and to stop attacking U.S. service members. 

The Taliban also agreed to start peace talks with the Afghan government and consider a cease-fire with the government. (The Taliban had been killing Afghan forces throughout this, attempting to use the violence as leverage in negotiations, U.S. intelligence officials believed.) 

The deal laid out an explicit timetable for the United States and NATO to pull out their forces: In the first 100 days or so, they would reduce troops from 14,000 to 8,600 and leave five military bases. Over the next nine months, they would vacate all the rest. “The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will complete withdrawal of all remaining forces from Afghanistan within the remaining nine and a half (9.5) months,” the deal reads. “The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will withdraw all their forces from remaining bases.” 

The United States would release 5,000 Taliban prisoners; the Taliban would release 1,000 of its prisoners. 

The Taliban’s end of the deal asked a lot from the group — too much to be realistic, critics said. In addition to making sure nowhere in the country harbored a terrorist cell, the Taliban agreed to be responsible for any individual who might want to attack the United States from Afghanistan, including new immigrants to the country. 

The Taliban “will send a clear message that those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies have no place in Afghanistan,” the deal read. And the Taliban agreed to “prevent any group or individual in Afghanistan from threatening the security of the United States and its allies, and will prevent them from recruiting, training, and fundraising and will not host them in accordance with the commitments in this agreement.” 

This deal required taking the Taliban’s promises on faith. 

“I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show that we’re not all wasting time,” Trump said as he announced the agreement. He added as an aside: “If bad things happen, we’ll go back with a force like no one’s ever seen.” 

One gaping problem, say scholars (including some from the Trump administration): The peace agreement came with no enforcement mechanism for the Taliban to keep its word. 

The Taliban basically had to sign a pledge saying it wouldn’t harbor terrorists. Nowhere did the Taliban have to — nor did it choose to — denounce al-Qaeda, the terrorist group that launched the 9/11 attacks from Afghanistan, Miller writes. 

The biggest tangible commitment from the Taliban looked like this: For seven days before the deal was signed, its leaders significantly reduced their attacks on Afghan forces to show they were capable of controlling the group across the country. But the deal didn’t require that the Taliban stop its attacks against Afghan security forces. 

Overall, it was a pretty good deal for the Taliban, critics said. “Trump all but assured the future course of events would reflect the Taliban’s interests far more than the United States,” Miller writes. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s second national security adviser, has recently called it “a surrender agreement with the Taliban.” Another member of Trump’s National Security Council said it was “a very weak agreement.” 

As The Fix’s Aaron Blake notes, former Trump officials are suddenly and conspicuously scrambling to distance themselves from that deal. 

Cracks in the deal emerge almost immediately 

A few months after the agreement was signed, there was plenty of evidence that the Taliban wasn’t as sincere as it appeared about peace. The United Nations said it had evidence that the Taliban and al-Qaeda still had ties. U.S. intelligence warned that al-Qaeda was “integrated” into the Taliban. The Taliban launched dozens of attacks in Afghanistan, ramping up its violence. 

“The Taliban views the negotiations as a necessary step to ensure the removal of U.S. and other foreign troops under the U.S.-Taliban agreement, but the Taliban likely does not perceive that it has any obligation to make substantive concessions or compromises,” a U.S. inspector general report read. 

It was all enough that when Biden came into office, U.S. officials questioned whether the Taliban was breaking its side of the deal. 

But Trump chose to continue taking U.S. troops home 

And he had bipartisan support for it. 

It’s important to remember that by the time Trump came into office, the public debate about whether to stay in Afghanistan was largely over. Most Americans were done with the war. Even the military realized it couldn’t effect much more change on the current course. “The only way forward was going to be a political agreement,” Mark T. Esper, Trump’s former defense secretary, said recently. “Not a military solution.” 

To a number of those who were paying attention, the whole deal felt like a naked attempt to just get out of Afghanistan. It was a campaign promise of Trump’s to be the president who finally ended America’s longest war. It would be something no other president had been able to accomplish. 

Before the peace talks really got going, Trump had already started withdrawing thousands of troops, and he fired his defense secretary, Esper, after he wrote a memo disagreeing. (Esper later said that Trump’s withdrawing too many troops too soon contributed to what we see now in Afghanistan.) 

Biden criticizes the deal but hews to it 

When Biden took over, there were just 3,500 U.S. troops left in the country (from a high of 100,000 during the Obama years). He pushed back the date of the planned withdrawal from May 1 to four months later, but he kept the deal intact. U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. 

“It’s time to end America’s longest war,” he said. 

The Taliban didn’t even wait for the Americans to completely leave before it took over the country in a matter of days. As the world watched Kabul fall, Biden has defended his decision not to stay and fight by saying Trump’s deal required him to either maintain the withdrawal or escalate fighting. 

“When I became president, I faced a choice — follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict,” he said in a statement. 

On Thursday, he credited the deal for the fact that the Taliban hadn’t attacked Americans during the withdrawal. “The commitment was made by President Trump: I will be out May 1st. In the meantime, you agree not to attack any Americans. That is the deal. That’s why no American was attacked.” 

Critics have contended that’s a false choice, noting how many other international agreements of Trump’s that Biden has eschewed or rewritten. But given that Biden shared the goal to withdraw, it left him little leverage to renegotiate with the Taliban. 

For both presidents, the peace deal with the Taliban presented a good opportunity to pursue their own agendas with regard to America’s longest war. And neither has seemed particularly regretful about doing so. 

“Leaving having proposed a peace effort and then blaming the Afghans for not reaching peace is as good a cover for leaving as any,” said Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

By Amber Phillips 

Amber Phillips explains and analyzes politics and authors The 5-Minute Fix newsletter, a quick analysis of the day’s biggest political news.  Twitter 

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Heather Cox RichardsonAug 8

“The yeas are 50; the nays are 50. The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative, and the bill, as amended, is passed.”

So spoke Vice President Kamala Harris this afternoon as, after an all-night session, her vote passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 through the Senate. It will now go to the House, where it is expected to pass.

The measure devotes more than $300 billion to addressing climate change and energy reform, the largest federal investment in climate change in U.S. history. It will make it easier and cheaper to get electric cars and to heat and cool homes without fossil fuels—Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan says families will save an average of $500 a year on energy costs—while also creating new jobs in these fields.

It extends for three years the subsidies for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act that Congress originally passed during the pandemic. 

It will invest about $300 billion toward reducing the deficit.

The money for these programs will come from several places. The bill will lower the cost of certain prescription drugs by enabling the government to negotiate the prices of expensive drugs for Medicare, a policy most nations already have. It also caps the cost of insulin at $35 a month for people on Medicare (Republicans stripped out of the bill a similar protection for those on private insurance). 

It makes corporations making $1 billion or more in income pay a 15% minimum tax, and it will tax stock buybacks at 1%.

And it will invest more than $100 billion in enforcing the existing tax laws on the books, laws that are increasingly ignored as the IRS has too few agents to conduct audits of large accounts. 

Senate Democrats passed the measure by using the process of budget reconciliation, which covers certain revenue measures and which cannot be filibustered. Although the pieces of the measure have bipartisan support in the country, every Republican voted against the bill; Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called it an “economic disaster” that will exacerbate inflation (the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office disagrees). 

Republicans used reconciliation to pass their own signature measure in December 2017: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This law cut the corporate tax rate from about 35% to 21% with the now-traditional Republican expectation that such a cut would spur economic growth, although the Congressional Budget Office estimated the measure would add about $2 trillion to the national debt over ten years. The Tax and Jobs Act did not increase employment or wages as the Republicans expected; those actually dipped slightly as corporations used the tax cuts primarily to buy back their stock, making it more valuable. That measure was the signature piece of legislation during the Trump administration. 

In contrast, in the past 18 months, Democrats have rebuilt the economy after the pandemic shattered it, invested in technology and science, expanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, eliminated al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, pulled troops out of Afghanistan, passed the first gun safety law in almost 30 years, put a Black woman on the Supreme Court, reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, addressed the needs of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, and invested in our roads, bridges, and manufacturing. And for much of this program, they have managed to attract Republican votes.

Now they are turning to lowering the cost of prescription drugs—long a priority—and tackling climate change, all while lowering the deficit. 

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne noted accurately today that what these measures do is far more than the sum of their parts. They show Americans that democracy is messy and slow but that it works, and it works for them. Since he took office, this has been President Joe Biden’s argument: he would head off the global drive toward authoritarianism by showing that democracy is still the best system of government out there.

At a time when authoritarians are trying to demonstrate that democracies cannot function nearly as effectively as the rule of an elite few, he is proving them wrong. 

This is a very big deal indeed.

Notes:

Acyn @AcynThe tie breaker from Kamala Harris makes it official. The bill is passed. August 7th 20224,037 Retweets29,080 Likes

Leader McConnell @LeaderMcConnellDemocrats have proven over and over they simply do not care about middle-class families’ priorities. Only 18% of Americans are happy with this Democrat-run economy.   And they just spent hundreds of billions of dollars more of your money to prove it yet again. My full statement: August 7th 2022249 Retweets816 Likes

https://www.npr.org/2022/08/07/1116190180/democrats-are-set-to-pass-a-major-climate-health-and-tax-bill-heres-whats-in-it

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/08/07/senate-democrats-pass-infrastructure-reduction-act-reconciliation-bill-strike-blow-against-cynicism/

Michael Regan, U.S. EPA @EPAMichaelReganThe Inflation Reduction Act just passed the Senate! This is a big deal for all people and our planet. 🧵 Here’s how this bill delivers for Americans across the country👇🏾August 7th 2022548 Retweets1,962 Likes

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/08/07/insulin-cap-budget-congress/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/senate-passes-inflation-reduction-act-vote/

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/01/18/trump-presidency-administration-biggest-impact-policy-analysis-451479

My Opinion based on Republican actions over the past 10 years. 

The GOP fought so called Obama care tooth and nail, yet they adopted the parts they liked to their own healthcare. The GOP used TOTUS aka the former guy to pass their own tax reform and install conservative judges in lifetime positions and install unqualified conservative judges to the high court, it is not a stretch that this directly led to overturning ROE V. Wade. The GOP over many years has never been pro U.S. citizen unless it benefitted them directly or indirectly. Pay careful attention to what is happening primarily GOP states. MA 



< The U.S. made a breakthrough battery discovery — then gave the technology to China

August 3, 20225:00 AM ET

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It’s a favorite promise of politicians – keep manufacturing jobs and technology in America. And yet the U.S. keeps losing both to other countries. NPR’s Laura Sullivan and Courtney Flatt from Public Radio’s Northwest News Network investigate one story about a cutting-edge battery and how the U.S. may have lost the next big thing to China, again.

LAURA SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Chris Howard is standing in the rain outside an empty warehouse in Mukilteo, Wash.

CHRIS HOWARD: We used to have 10 shipping containers here; there were empty containers back here; customers and clients coming for visits.

SULLIVAN: Howard used to work in this warehouse with more than a dozen other engineers and researchers for an American company called UniEnergy. Its name is still on the sign out front. What they were doing here was building a battery. Not just any battery – something called a vanadium redox flow battery. It was about the size of a refrigerator. And Howard and the rest of the employees thought it was going to change the world.

HOWARD: It was more than a job. It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears into developing a product that we were really excited about and really proud of.

SULLIVAN: Unlike batteries in cellphones or even cars, these batteries could charge and discharge energy for as long as 30 years. And this particular design seemed to hold enough energy to power a house. Researchers pictured people plunking them down next to their air conditioners, attaching solar panels to them and everyone living happily ever after off the grid.

HOWARD: It was beyond promise. We were seeing it functioning as designed, as expected.

SULLIVAN: They thought the batteries would be the next great American success story. But that’s not what happened. Today, this warehouse is shuttered and empty. All the employees who worked here were laid off. And across the world, a Chinese company is making the batteries in Dalian, China. The Chinese company didn’t steal this technology. It was given to them by the U.S. Department of Energy. An NPR investigation found the department allowed the technology and jobs to move overseas, violating its own licensing rules while failing to intervene on behalf of U.S. workers in multiple instances, according to internal department emails. Now China is forging ahead, investing millions into this cutting-edge green technology that was supposed to help keep the U.S. and its economy out front.

JOANNE SKIEVASKI: It just is mind-boggling.

SULLIVAN: Joanne Skievaski is the vice president of finance for a U.S. company called Forever Energy that has been trying to get a license from the department to make the batteries here for more than a year.

SKIEVASKI: This is technology made from taxpayer dollars. It was invented by a national lab, and it’s deployed in China, and it’s held in China. To say it’s frustrating is an understatement.

SULLIVAN: Department of Energy officials declined NPR’s request for an interview and wouldn’t explain how technology that costs U.S. taxpayers $15 million ended up in China. But after NPR sent department officials detailed questions laying out the timeline of events, officials terminated the license it gave to the Chinese company. In a statement, officials said the department, quote, “takes American manufacturing obligations extremely seriously” and is now, quote, “undertaking an internal review of the licensing of vanadium battery technology.” The story of how this happened begins where the battery was born, three hours southwest of Seattle, in the basement of a government lab called the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory where Courtney went to visit.

VINCE SPRENKLE: Yep.

FLATT: Vince Sprenkle works with energy storage here at the lab.

SPRENKLE: We’re going to go down into the redox flow battery lab.

FLATT: It was down here in 2006 that more than two dozen scientists began to suspect that a special mix of acid and electrolyte could hold unusual amounts of energy without degrading. It turned out to be right.

Do you feel kind of, like, on the cutting edge of learning about these batteries?

SPRENKLE: Yeah, we are. I mean, I think we’ve got one of the leading research groups in the country and probably the world in this technology.

FLATT: It’s because of this leading edge that when a success happens, the lab encourages scientists to go out and see if they can make and sell the inventions in the real world. The lab and the U.S. government still hold the patents because American taxpayers paid for the research, but the Department of Energy licenses the patents to scientists and companies willing to take a shot. In this case, it took six years and millions of taxpayer dollars to discover the perfect battery recipe.

Gary Yang was the lead scientist, and he was excited to see if he could make them. In 2012, he left the lab with the license in hand and started UniEnergy Technologies at the warehouse in Mukilteo, Wash.

GARY YANG: I left the lab, full legal process and start UniEnergy Technology in Washington state.

FLATT: He hired engineers and researchers, but then he ran into trouble. He says he couldn’t find any U.S. investors.

YANG: I talked to almost all major investment bank. None of them invest in battery.

FLATT: So he turned to a Chinese businessman and a company called Dalian Rongke Power and its parent company, which agreed to invest and even help manufacture the batteries. And so began a slow shift. First, Chris Howard said, it was just some parts; ultimately, it was the whole process.

HOWARD: Manufacturing was subsequently shifted to our sister company in China, and they would take on that role.

FLATT: In 2017, Yang and UniEnergy formalized the situation and gave Rongke Power an official sublicense, allowing the company to make the batteries.

SULLIVAN: So here’s the thing – companies can choose to manufacture in China, but in this case, Yang’s original license clearly says on Page 6 he has to sell batteries in the United States, and those batteries have to be, quote, “substantially manufactured” here. Yang acknowledges he didn’t do that. He was mostly selling batteries in China. And the batteries he did sell here were largely made in China. But he says in all those years, the department never raised any concerns or intervened. Then in 2019, Chris Howard said he and the other engineers were called to a conference room. Supervisors told them they, too, would have to go to China to work there for four months at a time at Rongke Power.

HOWARD: And that was set to be increased on the premise that there were certain government programs, Chinese government programs, that would support funding efforts. So it was unclear, certainly to myself and some of the other engineers, what the plan was.

SULLIVAN: In a statement, the department said that license monitoring is a priority and that a review of this case is underway. All of which brings us to Yang. Yang was born in China, but he is a U.S. citizen and got his Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut. He says he wanted to manufacture here, but at the time, China was doing more to encourage battery production. And he told us China could do it better.

YANG: In this field – manufacturing, engineering – China ahead of U.S.

SULLIVAN: China is ahead of the U.S.

YANG: Ahead of U.S. Many wouldn’t believe – engineering wise, ahead

SULLIVAN: He says far from helping China, the Chinese engineers were helping his U.S. employees. But you can see in several news reports at the time, it was helping China. The Chinese government launched several large demonstration projects and announced millions in funding.

FLATT: As things began to take off in China, here in the states, Yang was once again in financial trouble. So he made a decision that would again keep the technology from staying in the U.S. He transferred the license from UniEnergy to a company called Vanadis.

ROELOF PLATENKAMP: Vanadis is based in the Netherlands, and we will set up a holding company in Switzerland.

FLATT: Roelof Platenkamp is Vanadis’ founding partner. Platenkamp told NPR the company’s plan was to continue making the batteries in China and then set up a factory in Germany and eventually maybe the U.S. He says he has to manufacture in Europe because the European Union has strict rules about these things.

PLATENKAMP: I have to be a European company, or certainly a non-Chinese company, in Europe.

FLATT: But the United States has these rules, too. And any transfer of a U.S. government license needs U.S. government approval.

SULLIVAN: Which Yang apparently had no trouble getting. We looked at department emails and found that last summer, on July 7, one of the top officials at UniEnergy wrote to a government manager at the Department of Energy Lab in Washington saying they were going to make a deal with Vanadis. We believe they have the right blend of technical expertise, the official wrote. The manager wrote back that he would need confirmation. A second employee sent confirmation an hour and a half later, and the license was transferred.

Now, if anyone from the lab or the Department of Energy during that hour and a half thought to check whether Vanadis was an American company or whether it intended to manufacture in the United States is unclear. Even Vanadis’ website says it plans to make the batteries in China. Department of Energy officials told us they take all license transfers seriously and have recently closed significant loopholes. But they acknowledge their efforts rely to some extent on, quote, “good faith disclosures” by the companies, which means if companies like UniEnergy don’t say anything, the U.S. government may never know. It’s a problem government investigators found has been going on for years. In 2018, the Government Accountability Office found the department lacked resources to properly monitor its licenses, was relying on antiquated computer systems and didn’t have consistent policies across its labs.

FLATT: It was an American company, Forever Energy, that actually read the vanadium battery license and raised a red flag more than a year ago. Joanne Skievaski and others there say they repeatedly warned department officials that the UniEnergy license was not in compliance. Officials repeatedly told them it was.

SKIEVASKI: How is it that the national lab did not require U.S. manufacturing? Not only is it a violation of the license, it’s a violation to our country.

FLATT: Skievaski hopes that now that the department has revoked the license, Forever Energy will get a chance. They’re hoping to open a factory in Louisiana.

SKIEVASKI: We are ready to go with this technology.

SULLIVAN: Skievaski told us it will be hard at this point for any American company to catch up. Industry trade reports lists Dalian Rongke Power as the No. 1 manufacturer of vanadium flow batteries worldwide. And the bigger question looming over all of this is whether China will stop making the batteries once an American company is granted the right to start making them.

FLATT: That may be unlikely. Chinese news reports announced this summer that China is about to bring online one of the largest battery farms in the world, hoping to set new records for energy output. The reports say the entire battery farm is built out of vanadium redux flow batteries.

I’m Courtney Flatt.

SULLIVAN: And I’m Laura Sullivan, NPR News.

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Heather Cox RichardsonAug 7

On this day in 1880, the Republican candidate for president, James A. Garfield, spoke to thousands of supporters from the balcony of the Republican headquarters in New York City. Ten years before, in 1870, Americans had added the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, making sure that Black men could vote by guaranteeing that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

As soon as the amendment was ratified, though, white southerners who were dead set against their Black neighbors participating in their government began to say that they had no problem with Black men voting on racial grounds. Their objection to Black voting, they claimed, was that poor, uneducated Black men just out of enslavement were voting for lawmakers who promised them public services, like roads and schools, that could be paid for only with taxes levied on people with the means to pay, which in the post–Civil War South usually meant white men.

Complaining that Black voters were socialists—they actually used that term in 1871—white southerners began to keep Black voters from the polls. In 1878, Democrats captured both the House and the Senate, and former Confederates took control of key congressional committees. From there, in the summer of 1879, they threatened to shut down the federal government altogether unless the president, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, agreed to end the federal protection of Black Americans in the South. 

The congressional leader who eventually forced them to back down was James A. Garfield (R-OH). Impressed by his successful effort to save the country, in 1880, party leaders nominated him for president. 

Garfield was a brilliant and well-educated man and had served in the Civil War himself. On August 6 in New York City, he singled out the veterans in the crowd to explain how he saw the nation’s future.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “ideas outlive men; ideas outlive all earthly things. You who fought in the war for the Union fought for immortal ideas, and by their might you crowned the war with victory. But victory was worth nothing except for the truths that were under it, in it, and above it. We meet tonight as comrades to stand guard around the sacred truths for which we fought.” 

“[W]e will remember our allies who fought with us,” he told them. “Soon after the great struggle began, we looked beyond the army of white rebels, and saw 4,000,000 of [B]lack people condemned to toil as slaves for our enemies; and we found that the hearts of these 4,000,000 were God-inspired with the spirit of liberty, and that they were all our friends.” As the audience cheered, he continued: “We have seen white men betray the flag and fight to kill the Union; but in all that long, dreary war we never saw a traitor in a black skin.” To great applause, he vowed, “[W]e will stand by these [B]lack allies. We will stand by them until the sun of liberty, fixed in the firmament of our Constitution, shall shine with equal ray upon every man, [B]lack or white, throughout the Union.” As the audience cheered, he continued: “Fellow-citizens, fellow-soldiers, in this there is the beneficence of eternal justice, and by it we will stand forever.” 

Garfield won the presidency that year, but just barely. The South went solidly Democratic, and in the years to come, white northerners looked the other way as white southerners kept Black men from voting, first with terrorism and then with state election laws using grandfather clauses that cut out Black men without mentioning race by permitting a man to vote if his grandfather had voted, literacy tests in which white registrars got to decide who passed, poll taxes that were enforced arbitrarily, and so on. States also cut up districts unevenly to favor the Democrats, who ran an all-white, segregationist party. In 1880, the South became solidly Democratic, and with white men keeping Black people from the polls, it would remain so until 1964.

But then, exactly 85 years after Garfield’s speech, on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. The need for the law was explained in its full title: “An Act to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution, and for other purposes.”

Black Americans had never accepted their exclusion from the vote, and after World War II, they and other people of color who had fought for the nation overseas brought home their determination to be treated equally. White reactionaries responded with violence, but Black Americans continued to stand up for their rights. In 1957 and 1960, under pressure from President Dwight Eisenhower, Congress passed civil rights acts designed to empower the federal government to enforce the laws protecting Black voting.

In 1961 the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) began intensive efforts to register voters and to organize communities to support political change. Because only 6.7% of Black Mississippians were registered, Mississippi became a focal point, and in the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, volunteers set out to register voters. On June 21, Ku Klux Klan members, at least one of whom was a law enforcement officer, murdered organizers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner near Philadelphia, Mississippi, and, when discovered, laughed at the idea they would be punished for the murders.

That year, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which strengthened voting rights. On March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, marchers led by John Lewis (who would go on to serve 17 terms in Congress) headed for Montgomery to demonstrate their desire to vote. Law enforcement officers stopped them on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and beat them bloody.

On March 15, President Johnson called for Congress to pass legislation defending Americans’ right to vote. “There is no constitutional issue here,” he told them. “The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong—deadly wrong—to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of states’ rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.” Congress passed the measure. And on this day in 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. 

“Today is a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that has ever been won on any battlefield,” he told the country. “I pledge [to] you that we will not delay, or we will not hesitate, or we will not turn aside until Americans of every race and color and origin in this country have the same right as all others to share in the process of democracy.” 

“[M]en cannot live with a lie and not be stained by it,” he said. “The central fact of American civilization…is that freedom and justice and the dignity of man are not just words to us. We believe in them. Under all the growth and the tumult and abundance, we believe. And so, as long as some among us are oppressed—and we are part of that oppression—it must blunt our faith and sap the strength of our high purpose.” 

Notes:

“Speech of General James A. Garfield delivered to the ‘boys in blue.’” New York, August 6, 1880, at Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/resource/rbpe.12900200/?sp=1.

https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/presidential-speeches/august-6-1965-remarks-signing-voting-rights-act

https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/06/us/voting-rights-by-the-numbers-2022/index.html

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August 5, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson August 6

On this day in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a new tax law to help fund the United States government during the Civil War. Far more than writing a traditional revenue act to address the catastrophic war that had demonstrated its horrors just two weeks earlier at the Battle of Bull Run, Congress deliberately constructed the law to shift ownership of the American government away from the bankers who had previously provided Treasury funds, to the American people.

Over the next four years, the Republican Congress would put taxes on virtually every product in the country and then, to guarantee that “the burdens will be more equalized on all classes of the community, more especially on those who are able to bear them,” as Senate Finance Committee chair William Pitt Fessenden (R-ME) put it, they invented the nation’s first income tax.

In 1861, Congress levied a 3% tax on income over $800; in 1862, concerned that the level of taxation necessary to pay for the war would be too much for most Americans to bear, Congress placed a general tax at 3% and created a progressive income tax. It taxed income over $600 at 3% and income over $10,000 at 5%. “The weight must be distributed equally,” Representative Justin Smith Morrill (R-VT) said, “not upon each man an equal amount, but a tax proportionate to his ability to pay.” In 1864, Congress revised those numbers upward. They put general taxes at 5% and raised the income tax brackets to 5% for income from $600 to $5,000 and 7.5% for income from $5,000 to $10,000.

Morrill thought it was important for the federal government to collect the tax directly to illustrate that people were supporting the United States of America, not individual states, as they might think if states collected the taxes. The federal government had a right to “demand” 99% of a man’s property for an urgent necessity, he said. When the nation required it, “the property of the people… belongs to the Government.”

Indeed, the new taxes cemented loyalty to the United States. With their money behind the war effort, Americans became more and more committed to their cause. As the war costs mounted, far from objecting to taxes, Americans asked their congressmen to raise them, out of concern about the growing national debt. In 1864, Senator John P. Hale (R-NH) said: “The condition of the country is singular…I venture to say it is an anomaly in the history of the world. What do the people of the United States ask of this Congress? To take off taxes? No, sir, they ask you to put them on. The universal cry of this people is to be taxed.”

Enlisting more than 2 million soldiers and sailors into the war effort, moving them, equipping them, and arming them eventually cost the United States more than $5 billion. Taxes paid for about 21% of that cost.

This day in history seems relevant again in 2022 as today’s Republicans stand united against the Inflation Reduction Act.

This new bill, announced by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on July 27, will invest $386 billion into addressing climate change and new energy development, and $100 billion in new health care spending, including extending subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. The measure will raise about $790 billion in savings and revenue over a decade. It will save money by enabling Medicare to negotiate the prices for certain prescription drugs and by beefing up funding for the IRS to enforce existing tax laws. It also will raise revenue by requiring corporations to pay a minimum tax of 15%. The measure is projected to raise about $50 billion a year for 9 years, which will be used to reduce the federal deficit by $300 billion.

Last night, Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema, the last Democratic holdout on the bill, said she would support it if leaders added drought money for Arizona and removed the carried interest loophole that lowers taxation for certain wealthy hedge fund managers. The carried interest loophole would have raised $14 billion, but Democrats instead added a 1% tax on stock buybacks, which is expected to make up that money.

The measure is expected to pass the House but can make it through the Senate only because Democrats will pass it under the system known as reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered. Republicans are dead set against the measure, although all of its pieces are widely popular. Indeed, the Inflation Reduction Act seems to reflect the sort of government the Republicans constructed during the Civil War: one that answered to the American people, and one in which the government is making an effort to distribute the costs of that government among people according to their ability to pay.

Today’s Republicans reject the idea. Instead, echoing Republican rhetoric since the 1980s, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has taken the position that taxes do not build the country, but destroy it. He says that Democrats “want to pile on giant tax hikes that will hammer workers and kill many thousands of American jobs.”

And yet, in the Wall Street Journal, Princeton economics professor Alan S. Blinder, who served as vice chair of the Federal Reserve from 1994 to 1996, points out that the proposed tax changes “are tiny compared with the Trump tax cuts,” which “slashed the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and allowed more items to be expensed.”

What is at stake in this contest is the same issue Republicans grappled with in the 1860s, guaranteeing that “the burdens [of taxation] will be more equalized on all classes of the community, more especially on those who are able to bear them.” Now, though, it is the Democrats taking up that cause.

The Senate will work on the bill this weekend.

The introduction of the Inflation Reduction Act caps what has turned out to be a spectacular week for the Biden administration. Jobs numbers out today showed not the downturn that many expected, but instead the addition of 528,000 new jobs, restoring the U.S. job numbers to where they were before the pandemic and putting unemployment at 3.5%, the lowest rate in 50 years. The United States Chips and Science Act (CHIPS) and the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT) have both passed Congress. The president authorized and troops achieved the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. And gas prices have hit a 50-day low.—Notes:https://www.crfb.org/blogs/whats-inflation-reduction-acthttps://www.cnn.com/2022/07/27/politics/schumer-manchin-deal-build-back-better/index.htmlhttps://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/04/us/politics/sinema-inflation-reduction-act.html​​https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/04/economy/monthly-jobs-report-preview-july/index.htmlhttps://www.wsj.com/articles/republicans-fret-over-inflation-reduction-acts-tiny-tax-increase-recession-budget-agreement-supply-demand-economic-growth-11659644730

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Heather Cox RichardsonAug 4

I have spent the day rereading the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the news of the day has heightened its relevance.

During the Trump administration, after an extensive investigation, the Republican-dominated Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that “the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election…by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.” 

But that effort was not just about the election. It was “part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign designed to sow discord in American politics and society…a vastly more complex and strategic assault on the United States than was initially understood…the latest installment in an increasingly brazen interference by the Kremlin on the citizens and democratic institutions of the United States.” It was “a sustained campaign of information warfare against the United States aimed at influencing how this nation’s citizens think about themselves, their government, and their fellow Americans.”

That effort is not limited to foreign nationals. This week, Alex Jones, a purveyor of conspiracy theories and false information on his InfoWars network—the tagline is “There’s a War on For Your Mind!”—is part of a civil trial to determine damages in his defamation of the parents of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre in which 26 people, 20 of them small children, were murdered.

Jones claimed that the massacre wasn’t real, and his listeners harassed the grieving families. A number of families sued him. In the case currently in the news, Jones refused for years to comply with orders to hand over documents and evidence, so finally, in September, District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of Travis County, Texas, issued a default judgment holding him responsible for all damages. Since the judge has repeatedly had to reprimand Jones for lying under oath during this trial, it seems that Jones intended simply to continue spinning a false story of his finances, his business practices, and his actions. 

The construction of a world based on lies is a key component of authoritarians’ takeover of democratic societies. George Orwell’s 1984 explored a world in which those in power use language to replace reality, shaping the past and people’s daily experiences to cement their control. They are constantly reconstructing the past to justify their actions in the present. In Orwell’s dystopian fantasy, Winston Smith’s job is to rewrite history for the Ministry of Truth to reflect the changing interests of a mysterious cult leader, Big Brother, who wants power for its own sake and enforces loyalty through The Party’s propaganda and destruction of those who do not conform. 

Political philosopher Hannah Arendt went further, saying that the lies of an authoritarian were designed not to persuade people, but to organize them into a mass movement. Followers would “believe everything and nothing,” Arendt wrote, “think that everything was possible and that nothing was true.” “The ideal subject” for such a dictator, Arendt wrote, was not those who were committed to an ideology, but rather “people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction…and the distinction between true and false…no longer exist.”

It has been a source of frustration to those eager to return our public debates to ones rooted in reality that lies that have built a certain right-wing personality cannot be punctured because of the constant sowing of confusion around them. Part of why the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has been so effective is that it has carefully built a story out of verifiable facts. Because House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) withdrew the pro-Trump Republicans from the committee, we have not had to deal with the muddying of the water by people like Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who specializes in bullying and hectoring to get sound bites that later turn up in on right-wing channels in a narrative that mischaracterizes what actually happened.

But today something happened that makes puncturing the bubble of disinformation personal. In the damages trial, the lawyer for the Sandy Hook parents, Mark Bankston, revealed that Jones’s attorney accidentally shared a digital copy of two years’ worth of the texts and emails on Jones’s phone and, when alerted to the error, didn’t declare it privileged. Thus Bankston is reviewing the material and has said that Jones lied under oath. This material includes both texts and financial reports that Jones apparently said didn’t exist.

This is a big deal for the trial, of course—perjury is a crime—and it is a bigger deal for those who have believed InfoWars, since it reveals how profitable the lies have been. Bankston revealed that for all of Jones’s claims of low income, in 2018 InfoWars made between $100,000 and $200,000 a day, and some days they made $800,000. But there is more. People calculating the math will note that if indeed there are two years of records on that phone, the messages will include the weeks around the events of January 6, 2021. 

Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng of Rolling Stone report that the January 6th committee will request the text messages and emails, which should cover the period around January 6. Jones, who has already spoken with the committee, played a role in the events of that day, whipping up supporters and speaking at a rally on January 5. He is also close to Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, who appeared often on Jones’s InfoWars show and provided Jones’s security. When he testified before the committee, Jones invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 100 times.

The January 6 insurrection relied on the Big Lie that Donald Trump had won the 2020 election, a lie that has dramatically destabilized our country. Republicans have only deepened their commitment to that lie since January 6. After yesterday’s Republican primaries, in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, all key states for 2024, election deniers have clinched the Republican nomination for secretary of state—the person in charge of elections—or the governor who would appoint that officer. 

In Arizona, Republican candidate for governor Kari Lake claimed there was fraud in her election, without evidence and even before the votes had been counted. “I’m gonna go supernova radioactive,” she told supporters. “We’re not gonna let them steal an election.” (Lake’s election is still unresolved as ballots are being counted.) 

If indeed Jones’s phone turns out to have key texts that go to the January 6 committee, it might provide more facts that will help to diminish the Big Lie. Tonight another piece of information about that lie came from Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater, who reported in the New York Times that John Eastman, the lawyer who produced the memo explaining the plan to have then–vice president Mike Pence overturn the 2020 presidential election, told Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani that they must continue to fight even after January 6, suggesting they contest Georgia’s election of Jon Ossoff and the Reverend Raphael Warnock to the Senate in the hope that those races might yield the evidence of voter fraud that until then they hadn’t found. “A lot of us have now staked our reputations on the claims of election fraud, and this would be a way to gather proof,” he wrote.

Eastman also asked Giuliani to help him collect a $270,000 fee from the Trump campaign for his work on overturning the election, and he implied that the effort could be ongoing. 

Way back in 2004, an advisor to President George W. Bush told journalist Ron Suskind that people like Suskind were in “the reality-based community”: they believed people could find solutions based on their observations and careful study of discernible reality. But, the aide continued, such a worldview was obsolete. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore…. We are an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

I wonder if reality is starting to reassert itself.

Notes:

emptywheel @emptywheelThis explains how the Sandy Hook team got Alex Jones’ phone. dan solomon @dansolomonAlso here is what happened with Alex Jones’s cell phone, according to Mark Bankston: the phone’s contents were put in a Dropbox folder the two parties had been to using to exchange materials roughly ten days agoAugust 3rd 2022113 Retweets379 Likes

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/gop-candidates-just-cant-stop-lying-about-elections-even-when-theyre-winning

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/08/03/alex-jones-sandy-hook-phone/

The Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate on Russian Active Measures, Campaigns, and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election, Volume 2: Russia’s Use of Social Media, pp. 3-12. 

Joyce Alene @JoyceWhiteVanceAlex Jones took the 5th more than 100 times when he testified in front of the January 6 Cmte. Imagines what’s in his text messages, which are likely to land in the hands of committee investigators & DOJ promptly.August 3rd 20225,511 Retweets31,683 Likes

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Ivana Trump’s Burial Place May Have Landed Donald Trump These Huge Tax Breaks

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Kristyn Burtt

Mon, August 1, 2022 at 10:54 AM·2 min read

Ivana Trump’s death has taken a strange turn now that it’s been revealed that she’s buried by the first hole of Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The reason why she’s there suddenly makes sense because we all know Donald Trump loves a good deal, and he’s possibly getting one by creating a cemetery on his property.

Thanks to New Jersey’s unique tax code, “land dedicated to cemetery purposes owned by any person shall be exempt from all taxes, rates or assessments.” So by burying Ivana on the golf course, the former president can take advantage of that cemetery loophole — and make it look like he took care of his first wife at the end of her life. He’s always working an angle. The news is just enough to make any tax expert “skeptical” that someone would do that, but Dartmouth College’s Professor of Sociology Brooke Harrington looked into the situation.

She tweeted, “As a tax researcher, I was skeptical of rumors Trump buried his ex-wife in that sad little plot of dirt on his Bedminster, NJ golf course just for tax breaks. So I checked the NJ tax code & folks…it’s a trifecta of tax avoidance. Property, income & sales tax, all eliminated.” Harrington added a snapshot of Ivana’s grave with the outline of freshly dug dirt, white flowers, and a small, engraved marker with her name and date of birth and death — no headstone or sentimental note about her being a loving mother to three kids. It’s a stark comparison to her very glamorous Manhattan life in the 1980s.

The college professor also added some personal thoughts to her thread that vocalized what many people were thinking after seeing such a sad grave alone on a golf course. “I couldn’t believe her 3 kids–whom she apparently loved & who loved her–would allow their father to treat their mother like this,” she wrote. “Burying Ivana in little more than a pauper’s grave disgraces them all.” It seems like Ivana was outside the Trump inner circle after her divorce from Donald Trump — and they aren’t letting her forget that even in death.

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