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Monthly Archives: November 2021


The influence of TOTUS is still live in Congress, the people elected are there to do work, not name call and hold back progress on needed infrastructure which means JOBS, which brings better health, increased spending (economic boost). History has shown the GOP has consistently misrepresented spending yet under the cover of darkness aided and abetted the worldwide rich to continue making billions on our misfortunes- this does not rule out the DEM’s in all of this but if we (the voters) look at history we will see that we have been “hosed ” regularly by both sides. Our recourse is being informed first by looking back at what was done or not done in our names. WE the people are the only solution to poor government. The political class” primary weapon is division among the people which allows them to continue to spread misinformation for their benefit. We are a multilingual, multi ethnic and multicolor nation but as one and being well informed we can stop the “business as usual” governance which does not benefit us as a Country.

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The former President is still inserting himself into the everyday politics of the country in the same negative way that he did for 4 years. Since this is America, he is not restricted except for the messaging sites that have banned him due to inaccurate and false information. His ability to reach masses is greatly diminished yet he still manages to be seen and heard. His messaging has not changed and it is still about him and not about the country as it should be now and should have been during his tenure. TOTUS had many opportunities to be “mediocre” and he squandered those by self-aggrandizing executive orders and ongoing “campaign” speeches. Being President is exceedingly hard job along with being on duty 24/7 but TOTUS chose to delegate his duties to underlings who spoon fed him ideas and topics that he deemed prudent but were uninformed in relation to the needs of the country (that means ALL American voters). The Presidency is not a person but an institution that is guided by a person (hopefully someone with the “right stuff”). Essentially, we had 4 years of mediocracy instead of potential greatness and a show of American ability. The Presidency is about leading a country forward and being aware of the flaws and making some attempts to improve. Totus’s failures created a year of deaths due to poor reaction to a national health crisis which resulted in an initial loss of hundreds of thousand lives until someone gave him a buzzword that excited him (operation “warp speed”) which resulted in an acceleration of vaccine invention and production (a bit late but needed none the less). For 4 years the worst elements of government held sway behind the “curtain of TOTUS’ rhetoric and feckless leadership.

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November 25, 2021Heather Cox Richardson
Nov 26
I started these letters completely inadvertently on September 15, 2019, after I happened to see House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) angry letter to then–acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on September 13, noting that the committee knew a whistleblower had made a complaint and demanding that Maguire produce that complaint as required by law. As a political historian, I saw that for what it was: an accusation from a member of the legislative branch that someone in the executive branch had very clearly broken a specific law. That was huge, way different than the general complaints around at the time that, for example, then-president Trump must be violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, an accusation that was vague enough that it was terribly hard to address.Two days later, on September 15, a yellow jacket sting made me cancel my afternoon plans, and as I sat waiting to make sure I didn’t react badly to the sting, I used the time to write on my Facebook page where I had been posting once a week or so for years. I wrote about the history of the previous month and mentioned the issue of the missing whistleblower’s complaint. That post got swamped with people asking so many questions that I wrote another, and then another.And so the Letters from an American were born.Over the past two years, this has become a team project. While I do the legwork of explaining the politics of these crisis times, my heroic editors keep my writing clean and factual.But this project really belongs to you who read it. It was your voice that created the project, you who inspire me when I am so dead tired I fall asleep sitting up, and you who bring in related material and ask questions and correct my stupid errors. Above all, it is you who are helping to model what we so desperately need in America: a respectful community based in facts, rather than in anger and partisanship, a community that can defend our democracy and carry it into a new era.I am honored to be walking this road alongside all of you. You are smart, funny, kind, talented, insightful, creative, and principled.And I am so very proud of what we are building together.Thank you, for all of it.Happy Thanksgiving.
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7 scathingly funny cartoons about Thanksgiving inflation

Artists take on rising meat prices, government reassurances, and more

THE WEEK STAFFNOVEMBER 21, 2021Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare via Email

Editorial Cartoon.

Marshall Ramsey | Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate

Editorial Cartoon.

Steve Breen | Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate

Editorial Cartoon.

Dick Wright | Copyright 2021 Cagle Cartoons

Editorial Cartoon.

Joe Heller | Copyright 2021 Hellertoon.com

Editorial Cartoon.

Ed Wexler | Copyright 2021 Cagle Cartoons

Political Cartoon.

Gary Varvel | Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate

Editorial Cartoon.

John Darkow | Copyright 2021 Cagle Cartoons

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No matter the party or group, the uninformed will get stirred up about almost anything.

Another illustration to go with reader’s online comments for The Memphis Flyer

Cravens

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November 22, 2021Heather Cox Richardson

Nov 23Today, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, based in Stockholm, Sweden, released its 2021 report on “The Global State of Democracy.” “Democracy is at risk,” the report’s introduction begins. “Its survival is endangered by a perfect storm of threats, both from within and from a rising tide of authoritarianism.” “The world is becoming more authoritarian as nondemocratic regimes become even more brazen in their repression and many democratic governments suffer from backsliding by adopting their tactics of restricting free speech and weakening the rule of law. ”The report identifies the United States as one of the democracies that is “backsliding,” meaning that it has “experienced gradual but significant weakening of Checks on Government and Civil Liberties, such as Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Association and Assembly, over time.”​​“The United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale,” the report says. That fall continues to be pushed by malign foreign actors. An investigation by Jordan Liles of Snopes.com shows that foreign social media accounts are magnifying right-wing voices. In the wake of the Rittenhouse acquittal, for example, foreign accounts posing as Americans appeared to celebrate the jury’s decision. Frank Figliuzzi, the former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI, tweeted that of 32,315 pro-Rittenhouse hashtag tweets from November 19–20, 29,609 had disabled geolocation. Of them, 17,701 were listed as “foreign,” and most of those were in Russia, China, and the EU. Plenty of Americans are along for the authoritarian ride, too. A story by David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Isaac Stanley-Becker, and Shayna Jacobs in the Washington Post today reveals that the Republican National Committee (RNC) is using party funds to pay some of former president Donald Trump’s legal bills. Allies of RNC chair Ronna McDaniel note that since Trump is the biggest draw the party has for fundraising, it is important to cultivate his goodwill. This dumps the RNC into the January 6 insurrection mess by aligning the party’s central organization with Trump.That mess is deepening. Today the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol issued five new subpoenas to people involved in planning the rallies in Washington, D.C., on January 6 and the subsequent march to the Capitol. The subpoenas went to Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, who organized the “Women for America First” rally, and Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich, who called for a social media blitz. Another subpoena went to Roger Stone, who pushed the rally and raised money for it, and who hired members of the right-wing Oath Keepers, several of whom were at the riot, as personal bodyguards. Right-wing newscaster Alex Jones got one, too; he helped to organize the rallies, spoke at the one held January 5, and claimed to have provided 80% of the funding for the January 6 rally. Committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said: “We need to know who organized, planned, paid for, and received funds related to those events, as well as what communications organizers had with officials in the White House and Congress. ”Two days ago, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who sits on the committee, told CNN that many of the people they’ve interviewed so far—more than 200—have been Trump officials who testified voluntarily and wanted to be subpoenaed for “cover. ”In Washington, D.C., today, at a hearing for one of those charged in the riot at the Capitol that day, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, sought to define what it means to interfere with an official federal government proceeding. About a third of those charged in the attack on the Capitol have been charged with this crime, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Nichols asked a prosecutor today whether calling “Vice President Pence to seek to have him adjudge the certification in a particular way” would be obstruction. That’s a key question. Trump’s influence took some hits today. Sean Parnell, the Trump-backed candidate for Pennsylvania senator, suspended his campaign after losing a custody battle with his ex-wife. She accused him of physical and emotional abuse of her and their children. Today, conservative columnist Max Boot called out Republican lawmakers for “fomenting violent extremism” and noted that “they have also become hostage to the extremists in their ranks” because they fear for their safety should they stand up to the Trump loyalists. Right-wing extremists have threatened the lives of the 13 Republicans who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Two long-standing Fox News Channel contributors, Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg, quit the enterprise today over Tucker Carlson’s three-part series Patriot Purge. That series, they wrote, “is presented in the style of an exposé, a hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism. In reality, it is a collection of incoherent conspiracy-mongering, riddled with factual inaccuracies, half-truths, deceptive imagery, and damning omissions. ” They say they could no longer work at the Fox News Channel because “we sincerely believe that all people of good will and good judgment—regardless of their ideological or partisan commitments—can agree that a cavalier and even contemptuous attitude toward facts, truth-seeking, and truth-telling, lies at the heart of so much that plagues our country. ” And Kyle Rittenhouse, whom a jury acquitted Friday of all charges connected with the shooting deaths of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and the wounding of Gaige Grosskreutz, is fighting with the “Fightback Foundation” organized by “Stop the Steal” lawyer Lin Wood over the $2 million bail posted for Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse’s lawyers say the money was raised for their client and thus should be his; Wood contends that he raised the money (although apparently not all of it) and thus it should go to his organization.A number of Republican governors are facing primary challengers backed by Trump, and according to the Wall Street Journal, former vice president Mike Pence told the Republican Governors’ Association this week that he would be supporting incumbent Republican governors rather than Trump-backed challengers. Trump spokesperson Budowich—now under subpoena—responded, “Just like in cycles previous, successful Republican candidates must earn the support of President Donald J. Trump.”As the Republican Party falls to autocracy, President Joe Biden is focused on making Americans believe in democracy again by making the economy work for regular people. His policies are working.Today the CEO of Walmart, Doug McMillon, explicitly praised the Biden administration for its actions to reduce pandemic-related supply chain shortages, which are easing. “I would like to give the administration credit for helping do things like help get the ports open 24 hours a day, to open up some of the trucking lines…—there’s been a lot of work to do that—and then all the way through the supply chain there’s been a lot of innovation, and…week after week, in the third quarter in particular, sequentially, each month of the quarter got stronger, the number of containers that we were moving through the ports has grown significantly….”—Notes:https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-kyle-rittenhouse-trial-bail-money-20211122-icplcpeygzdahhwqmwzs43paju-story.htmlhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-rnc-legal-bills-ny-investigation-vance-james/2021/11/22/ef447f38-4bda-11ec-b73b-a00d6e559a6e_story.htmlhttps://www.politico.com/news/2021/11/22/capitol-riot-trump-523211https://www.idea.int/gsod/sites/default/files/2021-11/the-global-state-of-democracy-2021_0.pdfhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/22/republicans-are-fomenting-violent-extremism-are-also-hostage-extremists/https://www.snopes.com/news/2021/11/19/foreign-facebook-rittenhouse/https://january6th.house.gov/news/press-releases/select-committee-subpoenas-individuals-involved-planning-and-organizing-rallies​​https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/20/politics/zoe-lofgren-jan-6-committee-interviews/index.htmlhttps://www.npr.org/2021/11/22/1058140148/trump-backed-pa-senate-candidate-suspends-his-campaign-after-losing-custody-battFrank Figliuzzi @FrankFigliuzzi1Divide & conquer: A sample of 32,315 pro-Rittenhouse hashtag tweets, Nov 19-20, showed 29,609 with disabled geolocation. Of those, 17,701 were listed as “foreign”, but a deep scrub revealed most of those were in Russia, China, and the EU. @Tara_Writer @TAPSTRIMEDIA #RittenhouseNovember 21st 2021

Alexander Hendrie  6/24/2021LikeComments|4

The IRS has a history of corruption and incompetence


President Joe Biden has proposed drastically expanding the IRS.a man standing in front of a brick building© Provided by Washington Examiner

Biden’s plan calls for hiring over 87,000 agents, more than doubling the agency’s workforce. It also allocates $80 billion in new funding over the next decade, a 67% annual increase compared to 2021 funding levels. This plan will give the IRS new “specialized enforcement staff” and force banks and payment apps like Venmo to report the inflows and outflows of businesses and people.https://products.gobankingrates.com/pub/84d1cf40-924a-11eb-a8c2-0e0b1012e14d

This proposal is a terrible idea, given that the IRS has repeatedly proven that it cannot do its job.

Last week, ProPublica disclosed that it had received the tax returns of thousands of taxpayers covering 15 years, including those belonging to Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Michael Bloomberg. If this information is true, it was either obtained through someone hacking the IRS database or through an IRS employee illegally disclosing the information, a felony punishable by up to five years in jail time.

While this leak is concerning, it should not be surprising. The IRS has a long history of ineptitude, incompetence, and corruption. In 1997 and 1998, congressional hearings documented numerous examples of an out-of-control IRS.

A 1998 article by the New York Times described “military style raids” by IRS agents against taxpayers who were accused of nonviolent behavior. Another 1998 article, this time from the Washington Post, noted testimony from several small-business owners across the country. They described dozens of armed IRS officials raiding their offices, seizing business documents, and harassing clients and employees. In each case, the agency found no evidence of wrongdoing.

After these revelations, important reforms were passed by Congress to protect taxpayers. However, IRS malfeasance has continued in the years since.

During the Obama administration, the IRS targeted conservative groups applying for nonprofit status ahead of the 2012 election. Under the lead of IRS Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner, the agency ensured just one conservative nonprofit organization received tax-exempt status over a three-year period. No IRS employee was disciplined for this scandal. The Obama Department of Justice closed its investigation with no charges, and Lerner was permitted to retire with a pension and a bonus.

Around this time, an IRS employee illegally leaked the sensitive donor information of a conservative group, the National Organization for Marriage. The IRS claimed the information was released “inadvertently” and paid a modest $50,000 settlement.

In addition to a record of targeting taxpayers, the IRS also routinely fails to perform basic tasks.

The IRS has failed to complete legally mandated annual tax complexity reports since 2002. When asked in 2015 why it wasn’t doing the report, the IRS noted that it would take two full-time employees to do so. A 2021 Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report found that 40% of printers in tax processing centers were not working, but the only problem with many of the printers was that no employee had replaced the ink or emptied the waste cartridge container.

A 2016 report found that the IRS failed to document the return of laptops containing sensitive taxpayer data. The report estimated that the IRS did not properly document over 1,000 computers used by contract employees. A 2017 report found that the agency rehired more than 200 employees who were previously employed by the agency but fired for previous conduct or performance issues.

The IRS failed to hire 5,000 new employees between 2017 and 2019. The agency had been allocated funding for this staff, so these hiring woes are due to bureaucratic problems, including the fact that the IRS has not updated its workforce plan in 15 years. Further, the IRS has a union contract that requires it to consider internal applicants before hiring externally, a process that TIGTA says leads to a “waste of time and resources” and often results in the agency “shuffling existing employees around.”

In 2013, IRS employees spent over 520,000 hours on union activities, costing taxpayers $23.5 million in salary and benefits.

Biden’s plan to give the IRS $80 billion is reckless at best. Even Obama-era IRS Chief John Koskinen, a longtime advocate of increasing IRS funding, believes Biden’s IRS expansion is excessive. In an interview with the New York Times, Koskinen said the IRS could not properly use the $80 billion, saying, “I’m not sure you’d be able to efficiently use that much money.”

The IRS needs reform to ensure that it properly does its job and does not unfairly target particular taxpayers. In contrast, Biden’s plan would only throw more money at a broken agency.

Alexander Hendrie is the director of tax policy at Americans for Tax Reform.

Tags: OpinionBeltway ConfidentialBlog ContributorsTax

Original Author: Alexander Hendrie

Original Location: The IRS has a history of corruption and incompetence

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November 16, 2021

Heather Cox Richardson4 hr ago23960

Today, President Joe Biden hit the road to sell the benefits of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill he signed into law yesterday. In Woodstock, New Hampshire, today, standing at a bridge deemed structurally unsafe—one of the 215 unsafe bridges in New Hampshire—Biden said “Clean water, access to the internet, rebuilding bridges—everything in this bill matters to the individual lives of real people. This is not something abstract.”

The popularity of the new law was evident today when Republicans began to tout its benefits for their districts, despite their votes against it. Representative Gary Palmer (R-AL), for example, told his constituents: “Funding the Northern Beltline has consistently been one of my top priorities.” He added, “Birmingham is currently one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country without a complete beltline around it. Completing the Northern Beltline will benefit the entire region and enhance economic development and employment opportunities.” Completion of the road will create more than $2 billion in 10 years, he noted, and could create 14,000 jobs.

And yet, Palmer voted against the bill. When it passed, he tweeted: “The Democrats’ recklessly expensive infrastructure bill finally passed tonight after weeks of disarray among their caucus.”

Since Biden took office, the Democrats have used the government to help ordinary Americans. In the wake of the 2008 crash, the government badly underinvested in the economy, leaving consumers unable to recharge it. After a terribly slow recovery, the economy stabilized and then, once again, crashed during the pandemic. In spring 2020, millions of people lost their jobs, incomes plummeted, and spending fell off a cliff.

Worried we would make the same mistake twice, leaving the country to limp along, lawmakers pushed money into the economy. In spring 2020, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion bipartisan CARES Act, then in December 2020, the $900 billion bipartisan aid package. Then, in March 2021, the Democrats passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

These put more than $3 trillion into the economy, raising incomes and enabling individuals to put money into savings. Yesterday, the government sent out its fifth monthly payment to the families of around 61 million eligible children under the child tax credit that Democrats expanded under the American Rescue Plan. Yesterday’s payments were around $15 billion. So far, the program has delivered about $77 billion to families across the country which, in turn, enables them to buy household goods that pump money into the economy.

By protecting individuals’ incomes, the government also protected income tax revenues, enabling state and local governments to continue to function, while the money in people’s pockets has also meant they continued to buy goods, keeping sales taxes producing money. Far from collapsing, as it looked like they might in the early days of the pandemic, state and local governments are currently strong financially.

Other economic news is also good. Today, news broke that the government has badly underestimated job growth. Between June and September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics underestimated job growth by 626,000 jobs. The pandemic meant that businesses were slow to fill out paperwork, and this, in turn, meant numbers were underreported.

Goldman Sachs says that by the end of 2022, the nation’s unemployment rate will be at a 50-year low. Unemployment is currently at 4.6% and is expected to be at 3.5% by the end of the year, a rate that will match that of 2019, which was the lowest in 50 years.

Retail sales are also higher than expected. They are 16% higher now than they were a year ago, during the height of the pandemic. They jumped 1.7% in October, with Americans spending about $638.2 billion in that month. The National Retail Federation expects strong holiday retail sales. J.P. Morgan has upgraded its growth expectations for gross domestic product in the fourth quarter from 4% to 5%.

Products are also refilling shelves. Walmart today reported that it will have full shelves for the holiday season.

On all of this news, the stock market rose again.

All of these indicators are excellent, and they reflect the government’s protection of the demand side of the economy to prevent a situation in which the economy can’t recover from a recession because not enough people have enough money to get things moving again.

But now we are looking at a very different problem. The pandemic crashed supply chains across the world, creating a supply shortage (someone described this as the parking lot after a concert, when everyone is trying to leave at once, and as someone who once spent 4.5 hours trying to get out of a parking lot after a U2 concert, I love this comparison). Prices are rising as people who have money, thanks to lawmakers’ efforts to guarantee that we didn’t prolong a recession because of a demand problem, are trying to get scarce goods.

This has created 6.2% inflation in consumer prices, 4 points above the 2% inflation for which government officials aim, and a 30-year high. (Interestingly, gasoline prices, to which people look as a sign of inflation and which have risen about $1.50 a gallon from their low during the pandemic when no one was buying gas, are a reflection of global oil prices and have little to do with U.S. policies.)

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says that the smoothing out of supply chains and the end of the pandemic—if we can finally manage the pandemic—will bring prices back to expected levels, and Biden’s work with ports and shippers to expand their operations in order to clear bottlenecks appears to be having an effect. Bloomberg reports that the number of containers sitting on docks at the port of Los Angeles had declined 29% from its high. Still, the Federal Reserve has begun to scale back its support for the economy to try to cool the market.

Mike Pyle, chief economic adviser to the vice president, told Catherine Lucey and Alex Leary of the Wall Street Journal, “We continue to bet that as the economy recovers, as the pandemic abates, as a lot of the work that we’re doing to unclog supply chains and make them higher velocity and more fluid, as those things happen these pressures are going to abate.”

But concerns about inflation are affecting the Democrats’ plans for the larger Build Back Better infrastructure plan. Republicans insist that more investment will raise prices further, and conservative Democrat Joe Manchin (D-WV) has expressed his own concerns. Administration officials counter that the Build Back Better plan will lower key costs for families, especially childcare and medical expenses, and that since it is a long-term investment to be disbursed over ten years it will not have any immediate inflationary tendencies, while it will build long-term wealth for ordinary people.

With the economy so strong, so far only about 5% of Americans say that inflation is the most important issue facing the country. But painful memories of the crippling stagflation of the 1970s, when rising prices, rising energy costs, and the end of price controls instituted under President Richard Nixon sent inflation briefly over 12%, linger.

Republicans are hammering on this fear. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the fundraising arm of the Senate Republicans, said recently: “You can see what’s going to happen next. We’re going to continue to have inflation, and then interest rates will go up…. This is a gold mine for us.”

Notes:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/11/16/government-underestimated-job-growth/

https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/15/economy/unemployment-rate-goldman-sachs/index.html

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/11/16/statement-by-director-of-the-national-economic-council-brian-deese-on-increasing-retail-sales/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/11/16/retail-sales-october/Carl Quintanilla @carlquintanilla(Bloomberg) – The number of containers sitting on docks at the port of Los Angeles has declined 29%, CEO Gene Seroka says. (via @business @conorsen) November 16th 2021969 Retweets2,869 Likes

https://www.wsj.com/articles/us-economy-october-2021-retail-sales-11637009365?mod=hp_lead_pos1

https://www.npr.org/2021/11/16/1056268965/biden-picks-a-rickety-new-hampshire-bridge-as-a-scene-to-sell-his-infrastructure

https://palmer.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/palmer-new-funding-birminghams-northern-beltline

https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0482

​​https://www.nber.org/system/files/chapters/c11462/c11462.pdf

https://www.reuters.com/business/finance/fed-officials-say-high-inflation-weighing-consumers-needs-be-controlled-2021-11-16/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-inflation-economy-spending-11636845241

https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-biden-isnt-benefiting-from-a-strong-economy-11636548983

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November 14, 2021

Heather Cox Richardson

 November 14, 2021

Comment: The GOP (in all of its iterations) which has done nothing for the people since the 1800’s. It has continuingly lied about everything to keep power and enable its big money donors. The GOP did not want social security to become law (where would a lot of us be without it?) Right now, they are backing the insurrectionists and Trumpian lies to gain and maintain power. With the upcoming midterm elections, they are obstructing any initiatives that will gain votes and make the current administration look bad. We should all remember that what they do affects all of for better (if you make 500 thousand annually or more) or worse if you earn $150 thousand and less annually. MA

Last night, Trump’s disgraced former national security advisor Michael Flynn spoke at the “Reawaken America” conference in San Antonio, Texas, designed to whip up supporters to believe the 2020 election was stolen and that coronavirus vaccines are an infringement on their liberty. Flynn told the audience: “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.”This statement flies in the face of our Constitution, whose First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” James Madison of Virginia, the key thinker behind the Constitution, had quite a lot to say about why it was fundamentally important to make sure the government kept away from religion.

In 1772, when he was 21, Madison watched as Virginia arrested itinerant preachers for attacking the established church in the state. He was no foe of religion, but by the next year, he had begun to question whether established religion, which was common in the colonies, was good for society. By 1776, many of his broad-thinking neighbors had come to believe that society should “tolerate” different religious practices; he had moved past tolerance to the belief that men had a right of conscience.

In that year, he was instrumental in putting Section 16 into the Virginia Declaration of Rights on which our own Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—would be based. It reads, “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.”

In 1785, in a “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments,” he explained that what was at stake was not just religion, but also representative government itself. The establishment of one religion over others attacked a fundamental human right—an unalienable right—of conscience. If lawmakers could destroy the right of freedom of conscience, they could destroy all other unalienable rights. Those in charge of government could throw representative government out the window and make themselves tyrants.

Madison believed that a variety of religious sects would balance each other out, keeping the new nation free of the religious violence of Europe. He drew on that vision explicitly when he envisioned a new political system, expecting that a variety of political expressions would protect the new government. In Federalist #51, he said: “In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.”

Right on cue, Flynn’s call for one religion runs parallel to modern Republican lawmakers’ determination to make their party supreme.

The 13 Republicans in the House who were willing to vote yes and give Democratic president Joe Biden a win with the popular bipartisan infrastructure bill are now facing increasing harassment, including death threats from Trump supporters. Although he talked about passing his own infrastructure bill, former president Trump opposed the measure on Biden’s watch, and Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene called those voting for it “traitor Republicans.”

Meanwhile, Republicans remain silent about the video released by Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ), showing a cartoon version of himself killing a Democratic congresswoman. Sixty Democratic representatives are sponsoring a bill to censure Gosar; not even the Republican Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), has condemned the video.

It turns out the plot to overturn the election of a Democratic president was wider than we knew. New information from a forthcoming book by ABC News chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl reveals that Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows was deeply involved. On New Year’s Eve, Meadows emailed to then–vice president Mike Pence’s top aide a memo outlining how Pence could steal the election for Trump.

On Friday, Meadows refused to testify before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, ignoring a subpoena. His lawyer, George Terwilliger III, said that Trump had told him not to testify on the grounds of executive privilege, but as far as I can tell, Trump has not actually made that claim over Meadows’s testimony.

That did not stop Meadows’s lawyer from taking to the pages of the Washington Post to try to defend his client. His op-ed was quite misleading both about precedent and about the limits of executive privilege: as the committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and vice-chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) said, “there’s nothing extraordinary about the Select Committee seeking the cooperation of a former senior administration official. Throughout U.S. history, the White House has provided Congress with testimony and information when it has been in the public interest. There couldn’t be a more compelling public interest than getting answers about an attack on our democracy.”

But Terwilliger insisted the committee was out of bounds in demanding that Meadows testify. He indicated that the only reasonable compromise between the committee and Meadows was for the former chief of staff to answer written questions.

Terwilliger seems concerned that Meadows will get caught in lies if he testifies. The select committee says that “Meadows has failed to answer even the most basic questions, including whether he was using a private cell phone to communicate on January 6th, and where his text messages from that day are.” That sure makes it sound like they have information on his actions that day, leaving him open to getting caught if he tries to lie. Written answers are much safer.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee and member of the select committee, said today the committee would move forward quickly to refer Meadows to the Department of Justice for criminal contempt of Congress.

As Madison foresaw, the Republicans’ attempt to cement their power endangers the country. On Friday, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released transcripts of interviews with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledging that Trump administration officials stopped them from talking to the public and altered their scientific guidance about the coronavirus, accusing them of trying “to harm our commander in chief, the President.” More than 750,000 Americans have now died from COVID.

Their power play hurts us abroad, as well. Tensions surrounding Russia remain high. Yesterday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked to Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau to reaffirm U.S. support for Poland—a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—as Belarus’s leader Alexander Lukashenko tries to destabilize Europe by forcing migrants over the Polish border. The State Department noted that the turmoil on the Polish border “seeks to threaten security, sow division, and distract from Russia’s activities on the border with Ukraine,” where Russian president Vladimir Putin has recently pushed a large military buildup.

But, as Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) pointed out this morning, “Senate Republicans are blocking the confirmation of our NATO and EU Ambassadors so as to deliberately hamper global security…because they believe global instability will hurt Biden, and hurting Biden is all that matters.”

Notes:

[I corrected the spelling of “practice” in Madison’s quotation.]

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/memo-trump-attorney-outlined-pence-overturn-election-book/story?id=81134003

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/sep/03/trump-loyalists-doctors-ministers-reawaken-america-tour

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/12/trump-white-house-chief-of-staff-mark-meadows-ducks-jan-6-riot-panel-.html

https://january6th.house.gov/news/press-releases/thompson-cheney-statement-mark-meadows-0

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/13/abandoning-executive-privilege-biden-rejects-200-years-history/

https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/12/politics/house-committee-cdc-covid-trump-administration-response/index.html

https://www.businessinsider.com/bipartisan-infrastructure-bill-death-threat-andrew-garbarino-arrest-gop-pressure-2021-11

Twitter avatar for @ianbassin

Ian Bassin

@ianbassin

New documents show Trump Admin silenced CDC at start of pandemic, tried to alter expert scientific reports, and then tried to delete evidence they were doing so. We were the most prepared nation in the world but now more than 750,000 Americans have died.

House committee releases new evidence from investigation into Trump administration interference with CDC during Covid-19 pandemic

Dr. Jonathan Reiner reacts to President Donald Trump telling the Wall Street Journal that he “probably won’t” get a Covid-19 vaccine booster.

cnn.com

November 13th 2021

18,529 Retweets37,358 Likes

Twitter avatar for @hugolowell

Hugo Lowell

@hugolowell

New: Lawyer for Trump WH chief of staff Mark Meadows says in WaPo Op-Ed that one solution to standoff with Jan. 6 committee is written questions — appearing to suggest Meadows is afraid of perjuring himself

November 14th 2021

2,879 Retweets11,964 Likes

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-01-02-0027

https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/virginia-declaration-of-rights

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-08-02-0163#JSMN-01-08-02-0163-fn-0014-ptr

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Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. His new book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now. He is a Guardian US columnist. His newsletter is at robertreich.substack.com

OpinionEconomic policy

Corporate giants are raising prices even as they rake in record profits. How can this be? Because of their unchecked power

Thu 11 Nov 2021 09.14 EST

On Wednesday, the US labor department announced that the consumer price index – a basket of products ranging from gasoline and health care to groceries and rents – rose 6.2% from a year ago. That’s the nation’s highest annual inflation rate since November 1990.

Republicans are hammering Biden and Democratic lawmakers over inflation – and attacking his economic stimulus plans as wrongheaded. “This will be a winter of high gas prices, shortages and inflation because far left lunatics control our government,” Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida posted on Twitter Thursday.

A major reason for price rises is supply bottlenecks, as Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, has pointed out. He believes they’re temporary, and he’s probably right.

But there’s a deeper structural reason for inflation, one that appears to be growing worse: the economic concentration of the American economy in the hands of a relative few corporate giants with the power to raise prices.

If markets were competitive, companies would keep their prices down in order to prevent competitors from grabbing away customers.

But they’re raising prices even as they rake in record profits. How can this be? They have so much market power they can raise prices with impunity.

Viewed this way, the underlying problem isn’t inflation per se. It’s lack of competition. Corporations are using the excuse of inflation to raise prices and make fatter profits.

In April, Procter & Gamble announced it would start charging more for consumer staples ranging from diapers to toilet paper, citing “rising costs for raw materials, such as resin and pulp, and higher expenses to transport goods”.

But P&G is making huge profits. In the quarter ending 30 September, after some of its price increases went into effect, it reported a whopping 24.7% profit margin. It even spent $3bn during the quarter buying its own stock.

It could raise prices and rake in more money because P&G faces almost no competition. The lion’s share of the market for diapers, to take one example, is controlled by just two companies – P&G and Kimberly-Clark – which roughly coordinate their prices and production. It was hardly a coincidence that Kimberly-Clark announced price increases similar to P&Gs at the same time P&G announced its own price increases.

Or consider another consumer product duopoly – PepsiCo (the parent company of Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Quaker, Tropicana, and other brands), and Coca-Cola. In April, PepsiCo announced it was increasing prices, blaming “higher costs for some ingredients, freight and labor”. Rubbish. The company didn’t have to raise prices. It recorded $3bn in operating profits through September.

If PepsiCo faced tough competition, it could never have gotten away with this. But it doesn’t. To the contrary, it appears to have colluded with Coca-Cola – which, oddly, announced price increases at about the same time as PepsiCo, and has increased its profit margins to 28.9%.

You can see a similar pattern in energy prices. If energy markets were competitive, producers would have quickly ramped up production to create more supply, once it became clear that demand was growing. But they didn’t.

Why not? Industry experts say oil and gas companies saw bigger money in letting prices run higher before producing more supply. They can get away with this because big oil and gas producers don’t operate in a competitive market. They can manipulate supply by coordinating among themselves.

Since the 1980s, two-thirds of all American industries have become more concentrated

In sum, inflation isn’t driving most of these price increases. Corporate power is driving them.

Since the 1980s, when the US government all but abandoned antitrust enforcement, two-thirds of all American industries have become more concentrated.

Monsanto now sets the prices for most of the nation’s seed corn.

The government green-lighted Wall Street’s consolidation into five giant banks, of which JP Morgan is the largest.

Airlines have merged from 12 in 1980 to four today, which now control 80% of domestic seating capacity.

Boeing and McDonnell Douglas have merged, leaving the US with just one large producer of civilian aircraft: Boeing.

Three giant cable companies dominate broadband: Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.

A handful of drug companies control the pharmaceutical industry: Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck.

All this spells corporate power to raise prices.

So what’s the appropriate response to the latest round of inflation?

The Federal Reserve has signaled it won’t raise interest rates for the time being, believing that the inflation is being driven by temporary supply bottlenecks.

Meanwhile, Biden administration officials have been consulting with the oil industry in an effort to stem rising gas prices, trying to make it simpler to issue commercial driver’s licenses (to help reduce the shortage of truck drivers), and seeking to unclog overcrowded container ports.

But none of this responds to the deeper structural issue – of which price inflation is a symptom: the increasing consolidation of the economy in a relative handful of big corporations with enough power to raise prices and increase profits.

This structural problem is amenable to only one thing: the aggressive use of antitrust law.

These are the Companies that received the benefit of the 2017 tax breaks that never reached the average taxpayers as promised by TOTUS MA

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