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Monthly Archives: October 2021


October 29, 2021Heather Cox Richardson

Oct 30
The Republican Party has long ceased to offer policy ideas and is focusing on culture wars and obstruction. Their big statement this week has been to throw “Let’s go, Brandon” into speeches and, in the case of Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO), into a rap video in which she stars. The phrase means “F**k Joe Biden,” for those in the know; they use it because social media moderators do not flag it.The press secretary for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tweeted it out on Thursday morning, just after the president announced a framework for the Build Back Better bill, the larger infrastructure package the Democrats intend to propose alongside the smaller bipartisan infrastructure bill. Congress has been negotiating this larger package intensely for months, and it appears to be reaching a final form.But while the media has followed every twist and turn of Democratic disagreements over the measure, suggesting those normal disagreements are somehow a sign of dysfunction, the big story of the negotiations has gone largely unnoticed. That big story is that Republican lawmakers simply refused to participate in discussions over a series of proposals that as a whole are backed by 57% of the American people and that have even higher approval rates individually: one poll found 83% of Americans eager to give the government the power to negotiate lower drug prices. (In contrast, only 33% of the American people liked the Trump tax cuts passed without Democratic votes in 2017.)A refusal to join debate on such a popular issue is dysfunction, indeed.Instead of participating in the democratic system, Republicans turned over to conservative Democrats, especially Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the job of making conservative changes to the measure, while they simply fired insults at the president.Republicans are frustrated in part because Biden and the Democrats are remaking the nation. After forty years in which lawmakers rolled back government action, the Democrats under Biden are investing again in the American people.In his remarks about the Build Back Better plan on Thursday, Biden noted that for most of the twentieth century, we invested in ourselves, and that investment in our families and children, including through education, was key to our prosperity and international standing.In the 1980s, though, we abandoned that investment, handing the task of developing the country to private interests. It didn’t work. From being first in the world for infrastructure, the World Economic Forum now lists us 13th. From leading the world in educational achievement, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development now ranks us 35th out of 37 major countries for investment in childhood education and care.“We need to build America from the bottom up and the middle out, not from top down with the trickle-down economics that’s always failed us,” Biden said. “I can’t think of a single time when the middle class has done well but the wealthy haven’t done very well. I can think of many times, including now, when the wealthy and the super-wealthy do very well and the middle class don’t do well.”While outlining the details of the Build Back Better plan can wait until there is a final bill, we do know that the final blueprint provides a massive investment in childcare and eldercare, families, and education, and it uses the need to address climate change to produce good jobs. The government will serve the American public, not a small group of business leaders.“Any single element of this framework would fundamentally be viewed as a fundamental change in America,” Biden said accurately on Thursday. “Taken together, they’re truly consequential.”The Biden administration announced another major investment in the American people this week.On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a plan to modernize American diplomacy. The plan centers around State Department employees, “because,” Blinken said, “they’re our greatest asset.” He promised to “elevate new voices and encourage more initiative and more innovation,” and also to encourage diplomats to engage more fully with Americans at home, so that our foreign interactions both reflect the needs of our democracy and make sense to American citizens.Blinken intends to ask for congressional approval to establish a new bureau for cyberspace and digital policy. He will also name a new special envoy for critical and emerging technology. This new push will challenge China’s growing power in these fields and reestablish U.S. leadership; Washington Post foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius called it “part of a much broader effort by the Biden administration to get serious about the global technology race.”Blinken also plans to increase staffing to address future pandemics, and to seek funding for training diplomats to address climate issues.His focus on the people of the State Department illustrates the nation’s shift away from unilateral actions and military solutions and toward multilateral diplomacy, meaning that the U.S. wants to “cooperate with other countries to contend with the greatest challenges of our time, none of which we can tackle effectively alone.” “[W]herever and whenever new rules are being debated, for example, on how the global economy should work, how the internet should be governed, how our environment should be protected, how human rights should be defined and defended,” Blinken said, “American diplomats need to be at the table.”Under Biden, the Democrats are replacing the Republican ideology of the past forty years, which focused on individual liberty and cowboy diplomacy, with a plan to invest in our people and to cooperate with other countries.This return to principles that ushered in our most prosperous years hardly seems like a good reason to curse the president.


—Notes:https://news.gallup.com/poll/243611/disapprove-approve-2017-tax-cuts.aspxhttps://www.vox.com/22711083/biden-reconciliation-build-back-better-polls-infrastructurehttps://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/29/lets-go-brandon-republican-build-back-better-response/https://www.kff.org/health-costs/poll-finding/public-weighs-in-on-medicare-drug-negotiations/https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/10/28/remarks-by-president-biden-announcing-the-framework-for-his-build-back-better-agenda-and-bipartisan-infrastructure-bill/https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/27/state-department-gets-serious-about-global-technology-race/https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-on-the-modernization-of-american-diplomacy/
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Heather Cox Richardson  Oct 26Share
       

“Caravans” of migrants to our southern border are once again headline news on the Fox News Channel, but while these anti-immigrant stories divert attention from news that those on the right would like to bury, as usual, they also establish a larger pattern. 

Whipping up fears of immigration is standard for authoritarians trying to convince followers to support the loss of civil liberties in order to promote law and order. One of those who rose to power with just such an argument is Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, a figure those on the right are championing these days. Fox News Channel Personality Tucker Carlson broadcast from Hungary appreciatively earlier this year, presenting Orbán’s government, which has systematically dismantled democracy, as enviable. The American Conservative Union is planning to have its 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Hungary, as well.

This backstory gave disturbing context to today’s news from the Government Accountability Office. The GAO is a government agency within the legislative branch (most of the ones you’re used to hearing about are in the executive branch) that audits, investigates, and issues reports for Congress. Known as the congressional watchdog, the GAO tries to cut through spin to do honest, thorough, and nonpartisan evaluations of government issues.

Today, the GAO reported that actions of the Trump administration had undermined U.S. goals in the Northern Triangle countries that are currently driving immigration to the southern border. Since 2008, the U.S. has funded development projects in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to promote economic development, provide security, and combat corruption. This investment was designed, in part, to slow the movement of immigrants escaping the violence and economic dislocation of the region to the U.S. border.  

In March 2019, the Trump administration abruptly halted promised money, and that freeze continued until June 2020. Today’s GAO report documented how that suspension hurt 92 of the 114 projects underway under the control of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and 65 of the 168 projects operating under the State Department.

Migration to the border soared, right before the 2020 election. 

While Trump Republicans were trying to convince white American voters that immigrants threatened them, another story today suggests the real goals of the Trump machine.

The Guardian revealed that several members of the secretive Council on National Policy (CNP) claim that they were the ones behind the 2017 tax cuts on corporations and wealthy Americans. Wealthy right-wing Christian activists organized the CNP in 1981 to push the country toward religious and libertarian policies.  

Also today, the Washington Post Magazine ran a long story about CNP, calling it “the most unusual, least understood conservative organization in the nation’s capital.” CNP is registered as a charity, but it is essentially a central planning center for right-wing activists across the country. Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow, Jr., explained how CNP members, who initially opposed Trump, swung behind him when he promised to combat abortion. 

Members of CNP are a who’s who of wealthy conservative or political figures, including Leonard Leo, a leading light of the Federalist Society, which advocates for a conservative judicial system; Steve Bannon, a key Trump adviser; David Bossie, who headed the group Citizens United and who was Trump’s deputy campaign manager; and Kellyanne Conway, a White House adviser. Their goal, they say, is to create a moral America. 

So, it appears, the fearmongering about immigrants helped to give power to a secret group of wealthy Americans who lobbied for huge tax cuts for the richest Americans.

The stories about CNP suggest its members have focused on keeping emotions high and Trump in power. The CNP was instrumental in opposing business closures and mask mandates to combat the coronavirus. A number of members, including Cleta Mitchell—the lawyer who was on the phone with Trump during his infamous call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking him to switch the state into the Trump column although Biden had won it—and Ginni Thomas, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, backed “Stop the Steal” efforts.

Their efforts, we have increasing evidence, were promoted by Facebook, the giant social media company. Starting last Friday, 17 different news outlets have been publishing the “Facebook Papers” based on internal company documents provided to Congress and the press by whistleblower Frances Haugen. The stories allege that Facebook prioritized profits over truth and safety, deliberately amplifying right-wing voices and dividing the country. 

Facebook denies the allegations. 

Reports of migrant caravans might well be attempts to divert attention from the service of the Republicans to the wealthy, as well as from the story of January 6, which is becoming clearer as information continues to come out. Today, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol interviewed Steve Bannon associate Dustin Stockton. Stockton was one of the organizers of the Women for America First rally on January 6 that got taken over by the unpermitted Stop the Steal rally which led to the attack on the Capitol. 

According to a piece by Joshua Kaplan and Joaquin Sapien in ProPublica last June, Stockton was so concerned about the Stop the Steal people that he urged Amy Kremer, another leader of the Women for America First rally, to contact her associate Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, in the days before January 6 to warn him things were getting out of hand. The committee has subpoenaed Kremer to testify on October 29. There are signs that Kremer or an associate might have been a source for yesterday’s Rolling Stone article, suggesting that someone from Women for America First is willing to cooperate with the committee.

The Rolling Stone article, which provided names of lawmakers allegedly involved in planning the January 6 rally, refocused attention on the fact that it was Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) who was speaking at length as the mob broke into the building. His speech delayed the evacuation of the House chamber for 15 minutes, so that the House members were still present when the mob, including Ashli Babbitt, tried to get at them. A police officer shot and killed Babbitt as she broke through the doors. 

Last night’s Rolling Stone story also identified Republican Lauren Boebert (CO) as a participant in planning meetings for the events of January 6. Today she said in a carefully worded statement: “I had no role in the planning or execution of any event that took place at the Capitol or anywhere in Washington, DC on January 6.”

Today, once again, President Joe Biden refused to claim executive privilege to prevent the January 6 committee from seeing documents Trump wants to hide. 

Meanwhile, the Democrats in Congress continue to try to move the country forward, hammering out their infrastructure measure. They hope to have it finished before President Biden leaves for meetings with European leaders later this week.

Notes:

https://www.salon.com/2021/10/14/cpac-set-to-stage-far-right-conference-in-hungary-as-prosecutors-zero-in/

https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/15/fact-sheet-united-states-and-central-america-honoring-our-commitments

https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/central-americas-turbulent-northern-triangle

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/09/17/761266169/trump-froze-aid-to-guatemala-now-programs-are-shutting-down

https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-21-104366

https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/sw-border-migration/usbp-sw-border-apprehensions-fy2019

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October 24, 2021

Heather Cox RichardsonOct 25

I had planned to post a picture tonight, but this evening Rolling Stone dropped an exclusive, blockbuster story from reporter Hunter Walker that demands attention. The story says that two sources who are talking to the January 6th committee about planning the January rallies in Washington, D.C., have talked to Rolling Stone as well. They say they worked with congressional lawmakers and White House officials to plan rallies both in Washington, D.C., and around the country. They deny that they intended to storm the Capitol and imply they got used, which points to the sources being from within Women for America First, the organization that sponsored a bus tour and rallies around the country before heading to Washington for January 6.They allegedly named Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), as people with whom they planned. They also claim that Gosar promised them a blanket presidential pardon, although they do not say for what.From the White House team, they singled out then–chief of staff Mark Meadows. “Meadows was 100 percent made aware of what was going on,” one of the sources said.Katrina Pierson was a key figure in both accounts. She was on Trump’s campaign teams in 2016 and 2020, and worked with the organizers of the rallies before the mob stormed the Capitol. One of those talking to Rolling Stone said: “It’s clear that a lot of bad actors set out to cause chaos…. They made us all look like s**t.” This person included Trump on their list of bad actors and described feeling used by him and then abandoned. “I’m actually pretty pissed about it and I’m pissed at him.” Nick Dyer, who is communications director for Greene, said the congresswoman was only involved in planning to refuse to accept certified ballots, nothing more. He tried to compare Greene’s actions with those of Democrats who objected to Donald Trump’s 2016 win, and said that no one cares about the events of January 6 amongst what he suggests is the disaster of the Biden presidency. No other spokespeople for the lawmakers involved answered requests for comment.Between this, and the stories that continue to drop about Facebook, and the infrastructure bill, and voting rights measures… it seems likely to be a big week in Washington.—Notes:https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/exclusive-jan-6-organizers-met-congress-white-house-1245289/
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Heather Cox RichardsonOct 24

There are three stories in the news today that seem to me to add up to a larger picture.

First is the story of money laundering, which seems suddenly to be all over the news. Today we learned that federal prosecutors in Detroit have broken into a massive money-laundering operation between the United States and the United Arab Emirates called “The Shadow Exchange.” They confiscated $12 million and suggest this is the tip of the iceberg.

This story comes just weeks after the release of the Pandora Papers, which detailed the ways in which the world’s wealthy hide money. The United States is one of the money-laundering capitals of the world, and the consequences of our lax financial legislation are coming home to roost. Experts say that because of the lack of transparency required in our financial transactions, hundreds of billions of dollars are laundered in the U.S. every year. 

Another story from earlier in the month by Casey Michel in Politico reveals what happened to a small town in Illinois when a Ukrainian oligarch bought a factory there apparently in order to launder money. The townspeople believed they were looking at a new, prosperous future with new investment in the town, only to watch the abandoned factory decay. And then, miraculously, another investor appeared, but that man, too, seems to have been using the purchase simply to launder money. Now, the factory is decrepit and must be dismantled at great cost to the town, along with the townspeople’s dreams.

The second story that caught my attention today is the continuing news dropping from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. Today we learned that a Facebook researcher created a profile that appeared to be of a political conservative North Carolina mother and that within five days, Facebook’s algorithm was steering the profile toward QAnon, a conspiracy theory touting then-president Trump as a secret warrior against a widespread pedophilia ring in the highest levels of government.

Although the fake profile did not follow those recommended groups, the profile was then inundated with groups and pages full of hate speech and disinformation. Other stories recently have emphasized that Facebook officials knew of the radicalization of users before the January 6 insurrection but declined to address the issue.

People often make the mistake of thinking that Facebook profits from the advertising it sells to users, but in fact the system works the opposite way. A media company profits from packaging users to sell to advertisers. Facebook has sliced and diced its users so that it can sell us with pinpoint accuracy to political interests eager to divide us or drive our votes. 

It appears we now have hard evidence that the company knew its algorithms were peddling disinformation to divide us, and it did not fix them.  

Tonight’s third story is that former president Trump’s loyalists set up a “command center” in mid-December at Washington, D.C.’s famous Willard Hotel to try to overturn the election. Those meeting to come up with a scheme to overturn the will of the voters included John Eastman, who wrote the memo outlining how Vice President Mike Pence could refuse to count the electors for certain states and thus throw the election to Trump; Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani; adviser Stephen K. Bannon; former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, a convicted felon pardoned by Trump; One America News reporter Christina Bobb; and Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn.

It is significant that as this story has hit the news, Eastman, the author of the infamous memo, is running from it. He went to the respected conservative magazine National Review to argue, quite preposterously, that his memo was simply a thought exercise that he did not endorse. 

The very choice of the Willard, rather than Trump’s own hotel, suggests an attempt to create distance from the president, but Kerik, who rented the rooms, billed the Trump campaign for the $55,000 hotel bill. (Those participating are likely to discover that campaign activity is not part of official duties and so cannot be covered by executive privilege.) 

To me, these three stories are as illustrative of this moment as the three crucial stories in the January 1903 edition of McClure’s Magazine were of the corruption that led to the Progressive Era. In that famous 1903 magazine, investigative journalists Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens, and Ida Tarbell exposed the political and corporate corruption that were silencing the voices of individuals in the United States and driving them into poverty.

The first two of today’s stories suggest the rise of global capital in our financial system and its power over us through the dominant influence of social media, a new technology most of us don’t understand particularly well. That power has led to the third story: the attempt of a president who has lost an election to turn to a Big Lie, spread through social media, that his victory has been stolen from him, and that his supporters must take matters into their own hands. 

KIeptocrats, autocrats, and criminals are making a strong bid to control our country.

Will they succeed? 

Maybe. But in a similar moment after 1903, the American people reasserted the rule of law.

Notes:

https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/facebook-knew-radicalized-users-rcna3581

https://www.stripes.com/theaters/us/2021-10-23/money-laundering-operation-us-dubai-3347270.html

https://newrepublic.com/article/162321/america-money-laundering-capital-fincen

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/10/17/ukrainian-oligarch-midwestern-factory-town-dirty-money-american-heartland-michel-kleptocracy-515948

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/10/17/ukrainian-oligarch-midwestern-factory-town-dirty-money-american-heartland-michel-kleptocracy-515948

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/10/22/jan-6-capitol-riot-facebook/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/willard-trump-eastman-giuliani-bannon/2021/10/23/c45bd2d4-3281-11ec-9241-aad8e48f01ff_story.html

Ellen F. Fitzpatrick, Muckraking: Three Landmark Articles (Bedford/St. Martin’s: 1994).

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October 20, 2021

Heather Cox Richardson

This afternoon, Senate Republicans blocked a discussion of the Freedom to Vote Act. The measure is the compromise bill put together by seven Democrats and one Independent after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he could not support the more sweeping For the People Act passed by the House of Representatives. Manchin maintained that a carefully crafted bill could attract the ten Republican senators it needed to break a filibuster. The Freedom to Vote Act would provide for automatic and same-day voter registration, and it would limit the culling of voters off voter rolls. It would provide for two weeks of early voting and allow anyone to vote by mail. It would make Election Day a holiday and make sure that there is a paper trail for ballots.At the state level, it would start the process of rolling back the legislation passed by 19 Republican-dominated state legislatures to skew elections hard in their favor. It would prohibit partisan gerrymandering, require transparency in advertising, and protect election officials from the attacks they’ve endured since the 2020 presidential election. It would rebuild the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which oversees our election process but which was gutted under former president Trump. These reforms are nonpartisan and are an attempt to push back against highly partisan state laws that voting rights experts say will essentially allow Republicans to declare their own outcomes for elections.Today all Republicans voted no even to a discussion of the bill. All Democrats voted yes, but Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) switched his vote to a no so that, as a member of the majority, he could bring the measure back up later. What is stopping the measure from coming to the floor for debate is the Senate filibuster rule. That rule is a holdover from the early days of Congress, when there was no way to stop a member from talking, so that anyone eager to make sure something could not pass could just talk until the other members of Congress gave up and moved to another piece of business. The House early on created a mechanism to move from debate to a vote, but the Senate did not. The filibuster is essentially a refusal to stop talking, although a series of reforms have changed it a bit from its early days. During Woodrow Wilson’s term in the early twentieth century, the Senate adopted the cloture rule, which permitted two thirds of the Senate to vote to stop the debate—but not immediately—and to move on to a vote. That’s where we get the concept that it takes 60 senators to break a filibuster. In the late twentieth century, the Senate also changed that idea of nonstop talking to a threat to talk, lowering the bar significantly for a minority to stop legislation it doesn’t like. Nowadays, they can just phone it in. It also exempted certain financial bills from the filibuster: those are the things that fall under “budget reconciliation” measures. In the early twenty-first century, the Senate exempted judicial nominations from the filibuster and then, under then–Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Supreme Court nominations. (That’s how Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett got confirmed to the Supreme Court.) There is discussion now about removing voting rules from the filibuster as well, since we are in a bizarre situation where states that have heavily gerrymandered their districts to benefit Republicans are passing voting restrictions by simple majority votes while the federal government, charged with protecting voting rights, needs a supermajority of the Senate. Since the Republican Senate seats skew heavily toward rural areas, in this case, it is possible for 41 Republican senators, who represent just 21% of the population, to stop voting rights legislation backed by 70% of Americans.If this is permitted to stand, more and more voters will be silenced, and the nation will fall under a system of minority rule much like that in the American South between about 1876 and 1964. The South always held elections…and the outcome was always preordained. Meanwhile, the Republicans who are demanding control of our elections are also doubling down on their support for the former president, knowing that their most reliable voters are his loyalists. Today the House Rules Committee passed a resolution to send the criminal referral for Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon, who defied a congressional subpoena, to the House floor for a vote. That itself wasn’t much of a surprise—it was procedural—but more surprising was the loud fight Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) put up against the resolution. Both men are fervent Trump supporters, and Jordan, at least, is himself likely to be a witness before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. While they conceded that Joe Biden is indeed president, they refused to agree that he won the 2020 election, and they maintained that the investigation into the attack on the counting of the certified ballots on January 6—an attack that came close to pulling down our government—is simply an effort to distract voters from what they consider to be the failures of the Biden administration. When the Rules Committee took a vote on whether to advance the report to the House floor, all the Democrats voted yes, and the Republicans voted no. The vote was 9–4.  But there was a new feeling in the room. When Gaetz and Jordan started in with their usual attacks to create sound bites, the Democrats pushed back. Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a professor of constitutional law, actually said to Gaetz: “You know what, that might work on Steve Bannon’s podcast, but that’s not gonna work in the Rules Committee of the United States House of Representatives.” Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), the committee’s chair, pressed Jordan about his own conversations with Trump that day. Jordan has repeatedly changed his story about what he remembers about talking with the former president that day but has admitted that they spoke more than once. “Of course I talked to the president,” Jordan told McGovern. “I talked to him that day. I’ve been clear about that. I don’t recall the number of times, but it’s not about me. I know you want to make it about that.”Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the majority leader of the House of Representatives, says the House will vote on the committee’s criminal contempt report for Steve Bannon tomorrow. Republican leaders are urging House Republicans to vote no.A reminder: Bannon flat out refused to answer a congressional subpoena. Perhaps the Democrats are pushing back on the bullying of the Trump loyalists in part because some who have previously escaped legal jeopardy are now in trouble. In Florida, Gaetz’s former friend Joel Greenberg, who has pleaded guilty to sex trafficking, got an extension on sentencing Monday because he is still providing information to investigators. Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg told the court that Greenberg has made allegations that “take us to some places we did not anticipate.” There is a shorter timeline for Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), who was indicted yesterday for lying to the FBI about foreign campaign contributions (which are illegal under U.S. law). Fortenberry uploaded a video to YouTube, titled “I wanted you to hear from me first,” giving his version of events before the indictment dropped. In the video, filmed in a car with his wife and dog, he talked of the money in question but insisted he didn’t know it was from a foreign donor. Unfortunately, it appears there was a phone call between the congressman and the co-host of the fundraiser that brought in the illegal money. That individual was cooperating with the FBI, and in the call, he and Fortenberry discussed the illegal money in clear terms. At his arraignment hearing today, Fortenberry’s attorney said he would try to get the court to suppress statements made by the congressman “because he was misled.”

—Notes:https://www.propublica.org/article/top-fec-officials-undisclosed-ties-to-trump-raise-concerns-over-agency-neutralitySahil Kapur @sahilkapurWhat’s in Freedom To Vote Act Election Day a holiday Automatic and same day voter reg. Two weeks early voting Anyone can vote by mail Limits on thinning voter rolls Insulate election officials New redistricting rules Disclose + Honest Ads acts Empower FEC Ballot paper trail ruleOctober 20th 20212,716 Retweets7,281 Likeshttps://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/jordan-trump-calls-capitol-attack/2021/10/20/1a570d0e-31c7-11ec-9241-aad8e48f01ff_story.htmlhttps://thehill.com/homenews/house/577644-house-gop-leaders-urge-no-vote-on-bannon-contemptAri Berman @AriBermanBreaking: Senate Republicans block debate on Freedom to Vote Act It’s completely undemocratic that 41 GOP senators representing just 21% of country can filibuster legislation supported by 70% of Americans that would expand voting access for tens of millionsOctober 20th 202111,306 Retweets34,453 LikesKaivan Shroff @KaivanShroffWATCH: @RepRaskin schools Matt Gaetz, “You know what, that might work on Steve Bannon’s podcast but that’s not gonna work in the Rules Committee of the United States House of Representatives.” October 20th 20215,370 Retweets26,880 Likeshttps://www.cnn.com/2021/10/18/politics/joel-greenberg-gaetz/index.htmlhttps://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/10/01/fact-check-gop-ended-senate-filibuster-supreme-court-nominees/3573369001/https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/19/politics/jeff-fortenberry-indictment/index.html
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October 19, 2021Heather Cox Richardson

Always eager to stay in the news, former president Trump issued statements today insulting former secretary of state and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell, who passed at 84 yesterday after suffering complications from Covid-19. Trump also complained about the removal of a statue of Thomas Jefferson from the New York City Council Chamber. Unfortunately, he undermined his claim to be defending American history when he misidentified Jefferson as “a principal writer of the Constitution of the United States.” Jefferson was in France when the Framers were drafting the Constitution. Jefferson is the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. The rest of the government was dealing with the real world today, and their actions were not frivolous. Early this morning, the FBI raided the homes associated with Russian oligarch and aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska in New York City and Washington, D.C. Deripaska is closely associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin and worked with Paul Manafort, who directed Trump’s 2016 campaign. During that campaign, Manafort shared secret polling information with his associate Konstantin Kilimnik with the understanding that Kilimnick would give that information to Deripaska. In 2018, the U.S. government put sanctions on Deripaska, but maneuvering by then–Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) meant Congress lifted them in 2019. Just months later, Deripaska invested in an aluminum plant in Kentucky. The FBI did not comment on the raids.After yesterday’s report recommending that the House of Representatives hold Stephen K. Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for his refusal to honor a congressional subpoena, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol tonight voted to hold Bannon in contempt. Both committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and vice-chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) spoke before the vote. Thompson called out Bannon as the only witness who was stonewalling the committee, and he warned that the committee would not excuse anyone. “No one in this country, no matter how wealthy or how powerful, is above the law,” he said.Republican Cheney was more pointed. She noted that Bannon appears to have had “substantial advance knowledge of the plans for January 6th and likely had an important role in formulating those plans.” She also suggested that the arguments Bannon and Trump were making “appear to reveal one thing: they suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th. And we will get to the bottom of that.” Cheney went on to “add one further thought, principally for my Republican colleagues.” “You all know that there is no evidence of widespread election fraud sufficient to overturn the election; you all know that the Dominion voting machines were not corrupted by a foreign power. You know these claims are false. Yet former President Trump repeats them almost daily.”She asked her colleagues to “consider the fundamental questions of right and wrong here. The American people must know what happened. They must know the truth. All of us who are elected officials must do our duty to prevent the dismantling of the rule of law, and to ensure nothing like that dark day in January ever happens again.”The issue now moves to the House floor for a vote. Cheney was not the only one admonishing the Republicans to put aside partisanship and stand up for the country. The Senate will vote tomorrow on whether to take up the Freedom to Vote Act, with Republicans threatening to filibuster that procedural vote. Senator Angus King (I-ME) established himself today as a key advocate of the measure, and as the Senate’s conscience. He reminded his colleagues that in a world of absolute monarchs, the U.S. was founded on the radical idea “that the people… are the ultimate source of power and can govern themselves through their elected representatives.” That idea “was tested at Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, and the Wilderness. It was defended at Anzio, Iwo Jima, and Normandy, and was reaffirmed in 1965.”But democracy is fragile, and it most often fails “from erosion from within.” The senator warned that most failed democracies start with legitimate elections, but that leaders then manipulate the system to stay in power, just as they have done recently in Russia, Turkey, Venezuela, and Hungary. In the U.S., if the new laws suppressing the vote and permitting partisans to choose their own electors over the wishes of the voters are allowed to stand, “we will be left with a downward spiral toward a hollow shell of democracy, where only raw power prevails and its peaceful transfer becomes a distant memory.”King noted the profoundly dangerous breakdown of trust in the electoral system and called out the Republicans’ “overtly partisan attempt” to use the loss of trust as a justification to skew elections in the future. He demolished the idea that our elections are corrupted by “voter fraud,” and suggested the new election laws going into effect in Republican-dominated states are “stone-cold partisan voter suppression.”King urged his colleagues to change course, “to pull our country back from the brink, and to begin the work of restoring our democracy as we did in the Revolution, as we did in the Civil War, and as we did in the Civil Rights struggles: first, by simply telling the truth and then by enacting a set of basic protections of the sacred right to vote.” If they will not, he said, we will lose “our identity as a people,…the miracle of self-government, and…the idea of America.”“We are the heirs and trustees…of a tradition that goes back to Lincoln, Madison, and, yes, our friend John McCain,” Senator King reminded his colleagues. “All of them were partisans… but all shared an overriding commitment to the idea that animates the American experiment, the idea that our government is of, by, and for the people…. Now is the moment that we’re called upon to reach beyond our region, our state, our party, ourselves to save and reinvigorate the sputtering flame of the American idea.”“Indeed,” he said, “destiny has placed us here at one of history’s fateful moments. Our response to it will be our most important legacy…. I believe we all know our responsibility, and whether we like it or not, history will record whether we, each of us, meets that responsibility.”—Notes:https://january6th.house.gov/news/press-releases/thompson-cheney-opening-statements-select-committee-business-meetinghttps://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/19/politics/steve-bannon-criminal-contempt-referral/index.htmlhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-a-mcconnell-backed-effort-to-lift-russian-sanctions-boosted-a-kentucky-project/2019/08/13/72b26e00-b97c-11e9-b3b4-2bb69e8c4e39_story.htmlhttps://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/19/us/politics/oleg-deripaska-fbi-raid.htmlhttps://www.c-span.org/video/?c4982613/user-clip-sen-angus-king
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Mike Luckovich Comic Strip for October 19, 2021
Clay Bennett Comic Strip for October 19, 2021
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October 16, 2021Heather Cox Richardson

On October 8, the executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, told a teacher to make sure to follow Texas’s new law requiring teachers to present opposing views on controversial subjects. The Carroll school board had recently reprimanded a fourth-grade teacher who had kept an anti-racism book in her classroom, and teachers wanted to know what books they could keep in their own classrooms. “Just try to remember the concepts of [House Bill] 3979,” the curriculum director said. “And make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust,” the director continued, “that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”The Holocaust was Nazi Germany’s systematic murder of about two thirds of Europe’s Jewish population—about six million people—during World War II. “How do you oppose the Holocaust?” one teacher said. “Believe me,” the director said. “That’s come up.”The Texas legislature passed another law that is going into effect in December. S.B. 3, known as the Critical Race Theory bill. It specifies what, exactly, social studies courses should teach to students. Those guidelines present a vision of how American citizens should perceive their nation. They should have “an understanding of the fundamental moral, political, and intellectual foundations of the American experiment in self-government; the history, qualities, traditions, and features of civic engagement in the United States; the structure, function, and processes of government institutions at the federal, state, and local levels.” But they should get that information in a specific way: through the Declaration of Independence; the United States Constitution; the Federalist Papers, including Essays 10 and 51; excerpts from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America; the transcript of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate; and the writings of the founding fathers of the United States; the history and importance of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964; and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.While they managed to add in de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America—and I would be shocked if more than a handful of people have ever read that account of early America—there are some pointed omissions from this list. The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees Black voting, didn’t make it, although the Nineteenth Amendment, which grants women the right to vote, did. Also missing is the Voting Rights Act of 1965, although the Civil Rights Act of the previous year is there. Topics explicitly eliminated from the teaching standard are also instructive. Those things cut from the standards include: “the history of Native Americans,” and “[founding] mothers and other founding persons.” Under “commitment to free speech and civil discourse,” topics struck from the standards include  “the writings of…George Washington; Ona Judge (a woman Washington enslaved and who ran away); Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings (the enslaved woman Jefferson took as a sexual companion after the death of his wife, her half-sister),” and “any other founding persons of the United States.” The standards lost Frederick Douglass’s writings, the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850, the Indian Removal Act of 1830 that forced Indigenous Americans off their southeastern lands, and Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists defending the separation of church and state. The standards lost “historical documents related to the civic accomplishments of marginalized populations” including documents related to the Chicano movement, women’s suffrage and equal rights, the civil rights movement, Indigenous rights, and the American labor movement.The standards also lost “the history of white supremacy, including but not limited to the institution of slavery, the eugenics movement, and the Ku Klux Klan, and the ways in which it is morally wrong” and “the history and importance of the civil rights movement.” The legislature took three pages to outline all the things that teachers may not teach, including all the systemic biases the right associates with Critical Race Theory (although that legal theory is not taught in K–12 schools), and anything having to do with the 1619 Project.Teachers cannot be forced to teach current events or controversial issues, but if they choose to do so, they must “strive to explore that topic from diverse and contending perspectives without giving deference to any one perspective.” Supporters of the measure said that teachers should teach facts and not “choose sides.” The lawmakers who wrote the new standards said they had been crafted to eliminate redundancy. In 2019, the state wrote standards to teach character traits—courage, integrity and honesty—and instructions to include particular people or events could simply duplicate those concepts. “If you want to talk about courage, talk about George Washington crossing the Delaware, or William Barret Travis defending the Alamo,” a member of the state board of education said. Editing from our history Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the National Farmworkers’ Association—she was eliminated by name—as well as Abigail Adams and Frederick Douglass and the 1924 Snyder Act (by which the nation recognized Indigenous citizenship) does more than whitewash our history. That editing warps what it means to be an American. Our history is not about individual feats of courage or honesty in a vacuum. It is about the efforts of people in this country to determine their own fate and to elect a government that will enable them to do that. A curriculum that talks about individual courage and integrity while erasing the majority of us, as well as the rules that enable us to have a say in our government by voting, is deliberately untethered from national democratic principles.It gives us a school that does not dare take a position on the Holocaust.—Notes:https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/southlake-texas-holocaust-books-schools-rcna2965https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/871/billtext/pdf/SB00003I.pdfhttps://www.kvue.com/article/news/politics/texas-legislature/critical-race-theory-senate-texas-legislature/269-9e40d158-a700-437b-8bf0-8d8a2aaeec92
Kevin Kallaugher Comic Strip for October 17, 2021
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  Heather Cox Richardson Oct 16

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told his colleagues that on Monday evening he plans to bring up the Freedom to Vote Act and to try to get it through the Senate. The Republicans are determined not to let Democrats level the electoral playing field. While Democrats in the House, where legislation can pass with a simple majority vote, have passed voting rights laws, Democrats in the Senate have to deal with the filibuster, which enables senators in the minority to block legislation unless the Democrats can muster 60 votes. Republicans are dead set against voting rights laws. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has called voting reform “a solution in search of a problem,” driven by “coordinated lies about commonsense election laws that various states have passed.” Are the 33 election laws 19 states have passed to restrict the vote really “commonsense election laws”? Today, Meridith McGraw at Politico reported that America First Policy Institute (AFPI), a think tank of former Trump officials, says the priority for a second Trump administration would be new election laws. The president of AFPI, Brooke Rollins, who was in the Trump White House, said election reform would be top priority. Trump argues, without evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen. But, Rollins said, Trump might not have to push voting restrictions because the states have passed them already. In 1776, the Founders declared “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….” There have always been fights over who should have a say in our society, and until 1870, most voters in the United States were white men. After the Civil War, in 1870, the Republicans then in charge of Congress expanded the pool of voters to enfranchise Black men attacked by white gangs and undermined by white legislators. In that year, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution declared 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.” That amendment also gave Congress power to enforce that amendment. Almost immediately, white southerners determined to prevent their Black neighbors from affecting society through their votes began to keep Black Americans from the polls. By the early 1960s, fewer than 5% of eligible Black voters were registered in Mississippi, and when organizers tried to help them enforce their right to vote, white gangs and government officials harassed them, occasionally to the point of murder. Appalled at the violence playing out on the streets and then again on the evening news, lawmakers in 1965 passed the Voting Rights Act. It required that states with a history of discrimination get preapproval from the Department of Justice to change state election laws. The measure passed on a bipartisan basis. But the impulse to expand voting rights in America would face a backlash in 1986, when Reagan Republicans realized they were in danger of losing control of the government and thus losing the 1986 tax cuts. Republicans began to talk of cutting down black voting under a “ballot integrity” initiative in 1986, and new voter restrictions in Florida paid off in the 2000 election, when Republican George W. Bush won by a handful of votes there after many more votes had been suppressed. When Democrats tried to shore up voting with an expansion of voter registration at certain state offices in 1993, with the so-called Motor Voter Law, Republicans exploded. A New York Times writer said Republicans saw the measures “as special efforts to enroll core Democratic constituencies in welfare and jobless-benefits offices.” As Democrats began to focus on expanding voting rights, Republicans focused on restricting the vote. By 1994, losing Republican candidates were charging that Democrats won elections with “voter fraud.” In 1996, House and Senate Republicans each launched yearlong investigations into what they insisted were problematic elections, helping to convince Americans that voter fraud was a serious issue and that Democrats were winning elections thanks to illegal, usually immigrant, voters. When voters nonetheless reelected Democratic president Bill Clinton in 1996, Republicans did their best to undermine his presidency—and eventually impeached him—but the elevation of biracial Democrat Barack Obama to the White House in 2008 prompted a new level of attacks on the electoral system. The Supreme Court in the 2010 Citizens United decision permitted a flood of corporate money to flow into the electoral system, and then, in the 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision, it gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act. With Justice Department preclearance out of the way, states promptly began to pass discriminatory election laws. In 2021, in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Supreme Court said such laws were not prohibited, thus greenlighting the new election laws passed by Republican-dominated states after voters choose Democrat Joe Biden in 2020. And so, here we are. Republicans are trying to regain control of the government by making sure their opponents can’t vote, while Democrats are trying to level a badly tilted playing field. If the Democrats do not succeed in passing a voting rights law, we can expect America to become a one-party state that, at best, will look much like the American South did between 1876 and 1964. Our nation will no longer be a democracy. There are currently three voting measures before Congress. The For the People Act is a sweeping measure that cuts back on voter suppression, ends partisan gerrymandering, curbs dark money in politics, and combats corruption. The House of Representatives passed this measure in early March 2021 and sent it to the Senate, where Republicans blocked it using a filibuster. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would restore the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court gutted in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision. The House of Representatives passed this measure in late August 2021 and sent it to the Senate, where it sits under threat of a filibuster. In the Senate, Joe Manchin (D-WV) expressed misgivings about the voting measures and vowed to hammer out a voting rights bill that could attract the votes of ten Republicans and thus break a filibuster. He and a number of Democratic colleagues announced the Freedom to Vote Act in mid-September 2021. If there are ten Republicans to support the measure, we have not yet seen them. The Senate will vote on the Freedom to Vote Act on Wednesday. —

Notes: https://apps.npr.org/documents/document.html?id=21085054-schumer-dear-colleague-1 https://www.npr.org/2021/10/14/1045957114/voting-rights-set-for-senate-vote-as-democrats-push-bidens-agenda https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/24/house-passes-lewis-voting-rights-bill-506798 https://www.rollcall.com/2021/10/13/activists-try-to-keep-up-pressure-to-pass-elections-and-voting-bills/ https://www.politico.com/news/2021/10/15/trump-allies-election-law-reelection-516077 https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-october-2021 https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/revised-democratic-voting-bill-drops-controversial-provisions-tweaks-others-as-pressure-for-action-mounts/2021/09/14/6c59def8-150a-11ec-9589-31ac3173c2e5_story.html © 2021 Heather Cox Richardson Unsubscribe
111 Sutter Street, 7th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94104 Publish on Substack

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Men’s Health

Letter To men And Boys

 At some point in life, you will need to see a doctor. When you are young and living at home, your parents or guardian will usually see to that. When you are on your own, it becomes your job to take on that duty. It is important that you do so. According to your means, you need to seek and find a physician that you can see at least once a year (twice is better). With all of the different specialties available, you should look for a “family medicine physician”. Please pay attention to this: upon selecting someone, first step is taking to whomever you select to get a sense of comfort, if there is no comfort, there will be no trust no matter how qualified they are. Ask questions (not “gottchas”) that relate to your personal health as you understand it. Be satisfied with answers before continuing. Understand that Doctors are people first and like anyone else they have faults. “Pick your doctor like you pick your friends”. Once you have accepted this caregiver, what should follow is a complete workup to determine a “baseline” on your health aside form from any defined or ongoing conditions. This workup will include lab work (blood and urine usually and ask the question if you need to fast prior to the lab work). In the physical part according to your age, there maybe an unpleasant part involving palpitation of the prostate (it is pronounced prostate not prostrate). This is done by insertion of a digit in to the rectum (which neither of you will enjoy). This process is important because prostate cancer is slow growing and can go undetected for years. Part of the lab work will involve measurement of your “PSA” (Prostate Specific Antigen) which helps determine the health of your prostate gland. All of this is wordy and boring but the advice I feel is sound and may put you on a path to a healthier life. Now the ugly stuff: if at some point (hopefully never) you receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer, the choices are usually surgery, radiation or chemo.

Side Effects: Surgery- possible incontinence, impotence.

                       Radiation-Could Cause stroke symptoms, incontinence, impotence

                       Chemo- impotence, incontinence, loss of hair, taste.

All of these side effects may be permanent or temporary and may vary according to your general health and co morbidity.

As a prostate cancer survivor, I personally recommend the surgery as first choice as the side effects are something you can LIVE with. Simply put, find a personal physician that you like and can talk to comfortably about your health, follow their suggestions, maintain a good diet, exercise and live a long time.

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