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Monthly Archives: September 2022

August 29, 2022

Heather Cox RichardsonAug 30

Lots of news swirling around about the boxes of classified information Trump took from the United States and held at Mar-a-Lago, but the most telling window into all those stories is that the former president took to his Truth Social network this morning to demand that he be declared the winner of the 2020 election, or that the election be redone again “immediately!”

This is distraction at its purest—no one is going to redo the 2020 election—but it no longer works. As Trump has lost the power to command attention, his demands have gotten more and more outrageous. Gone are the days when he could make the media jump with a tweet. Not only is he banned from Twitter, but also his own Twitter clone, Truth Social, is in financial trouble. The stock of Digital World Acquisition, the company that planned to take Truth Social public, has dropped nearly 75% since its high in March, and last week the company reported that it had lost $6.5 million in the first six months of 2022. It has announced that it might be forced to liquidate, cutting off billions of dollars from the Trump Organization, which appears to be short of funds. The web service that hosts Truth Social claims that the company had not paid its bills since March.

Trump supporters are trying to turn the theft of secret documents into a political question. Today, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) seemed to be trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy when he warned that if Trump is prosecuted for his theft of classified information—a theft that would have any other American in terrible trouble—“there will be riots in the streets.” Graham, who is himself fighting a subpoena requiring him to testify in the Fulton County, Georgia, investigation into Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, tried to argue that law enforcement was out to get Trump, holding him to a standard it did not enforce for anyone else. 

Graham referred to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, implying that law officers had somehow gone easy on her over her use of a private email server. But, in fact, both the State Department and the FBI investigated her several times over that issue and concluded there was “no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.” She cooperated with the investigations and turned over her devices and emails. No prosecutors charged her. 

The question of the stolen documents is not about politics, but rather about the rule of law. When Graham threatens that gangs will take to the streets, he is saying that violence can overrule laws, a key sign of authoritarian rule. That sort of violence is not new to America. It dominated the Reconstruction South, of course, when white gangs terrorized their Black neighbors and the white men who voted as they did, suppressed labor organization at the turn of the last century, and fed rising fascism in the 1930s. 

It has been a growing threat in the U.S. since the 1990s, as right-wing activists egged on by talk radio armed themselves against the federal government, but that violent organization took off under the former president, first as he condoned the violence at the August 2017 riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, and then as he urged on the “American Patriots” who demanded their state governments reopen their states during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.

Those gangs were Trump’s troops on January 6, 2021, and on that day they quite literally illustrated the attempt to use violence to overturn the rule of law at the heart of our democracy. 

Such gangs have always operated in the U.S., and they gain power and momentum when they engage in violence and are unchecked. After several years in which they have seemed invulnerable, we are now in a period when, as we learned on Saturday, an armed man in a truck chased Independent Utah senatorial candidate Evan McMullin with a gun after an event in April and forced the vehicle carrying McMullin and his wife into oncoming traffic. That incident echoes one from October 2020, when a bus carrying Biden staffers and volunteers through Texas was harassed by Trump supporters, some of whom appeared to be trying to force it off the road. When the terrified Biden workers called the police, officers allegedly refused to help. 

Part of restoring democracy is imposing the rule of law, which means treating everyone equally. 

The Department of Justice, which under the former president weakened the rule of law for Trump’s political ends, appears to be working to restore that rule. Just today, a judge sentenced a Proud Boy who participated in the January 6 insurrection to 55 months in jail. Joshua Pruitt had an extensive criminal record and was on probation in two states at the time of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, when he came face to face with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). His attorney wrote that “[o]n January 6, 2021 Mr. Pruitt, along with nearly 40,000 other participants, at the direction of President Donald J. Trump went to the Capitol,” and that now—after facing legal consequences—he “regrets his actions.”   

Today the White House announced that on Thursday, President Joe Biden will give a prime-time address from Philadelphia on “the continued battle for the Soul of the Nation.” Outside Independence Hall, where the Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Framers wrote the United States Constitution, Biden will tell Americans “how the core values of this nation—our standing in the world, our democracy—are at stake.” He will talk about “the progress we have made as a nation to protect our democracy, but how our rights and freedoms are still under attack. And he will make clear who is fighting for those rights, fighting for those freedoms, and fighting for our democracy.”

Biden’s use of the physical symbols of our democracy to defend its values is itself a statement about the return of the rule of law. The former president used our symbols not to reinforce the nation’s principles, but to shore up his own leadership. In August 2020, almost exactly two years ago, he held an extravaganza at the White House to accept his renomination for president. He used the backdrop of the White House; Vice President Mike Pence spoke at Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner; and First Lady Melania Trump spoke from the newly renovated Rose Garden—all in service to Trump.

Today, Tony Ornato, the Secret Service agent who crossed over to become a top aide in Trump’s White House and who was involved in the events of January 6, announced that he is retiring as of tomorrow.



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Heather Cox RichardsonAug 28

In a speech Thursday night, President Joe Biden called out today’s MAGA Republicans for threatening “our personal rights and economic security…. They’re a threat to our very democracy.” When he referred to them as “semi-fascists,” he drew headlines, some of them disapproving.

A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee called the comment “despicable,” although Republicans have called Democrats “socialists” now for so long it passes as normal discourse. Just this week, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) called Democrats “radical left-wing lunatics, laptop liberals, and Marxist misfits.”

Biden’s calling out of today’s radical Republicans mirrors the moment on June 21, 1856, when Representative Anson Burlingame of Massachusetts, a member of the newly formed Republican Party, stood up in Congress to announce that northerners were willing to take to the battlefield to defend their way of life against the southerners who were trying to destroy it. Less than a month before, Burlingame’s Massachusetts colleague Senator Charles Sumner had been brutally beaten by a southern representative for disparaging slavery, and Burlingame was sick and tired of buying sectional peace by letting southerners abuse the North. Enough, he said, was enough. The North was superior to the South in its morality, loyalty to the government, fidelity to the Constitution, and economy, and northerners were willing to defend their system, if necessary, with guns.

Burlingame’s “Defense of Massachusetts” speech marked the first time a prominent northerner had offered to fight to defend the northern way of life. Previously, southerners had been the ones threatening war and demanding concessions from the North to preserve the peace. He was willing to accept a battle, Burlingame explained, because what was at stake was the future of the nation. His speech invited a challenge to a duel.

Southerners championed their region as the one that had correctly developed the society envisioned by the Founders. In the South, a few very wealthy men controlled government and society, enslaving their neighbors. This system, its apologists asserted, was the highest form of human civilization. They opposed any attempt to restrict its spread. The South was superior to the North, enslavers insisted; it alone was patriotic, honored the Constitution, and understood economic growth. In the interests of union, northerners repeatedly ceded ground to enslavers and left their claim to superiority unchallenged.

At long last, the attack on Sumner inspired Burlingame to speak up for the North. The southern system was not superior, he thundered; it had dragged the nation backward. Slavery kept workers ignorant and godless while the northern system of freedom lifted workers up with schools and churches. Slavery feared innovation; freedom encouraged workers to try new ideas. Slavery kept the South mired in the past; freedom welcomed the modern world and pushed Americans into a new, thriving economy. And finally, when Sumner had spoken up against the tyranny of slavery, a southerner had clubbed him almost to death on the floor of the Senate.

Was ignorance, economic stagnation, and violence the true American system?

For his part, Burlingame preferred to throw his lot with education, morality, economic growth, and respect for government.

Burlingame had deliberately provoked the lawmaker who had beaten Sumner, Preston Brooks of South Carolina, and unable to resist any provocation, Brooks had challenged Burlingame to a duel. Brooks assumed all Yankees were cowards and figured that Burlingame would decline in embarrassment. But instead, Burlingame accepted with enthusiasm, choosing rifles as the dueling weapons. Burlingame, it turned out, was an expert marksman.

Burlingame also chose to duel in Canada, giving Brooks the opportunity to back out on the grounds that he felt unsafe traveling through the North after his beating of Sumner made him a hated man. The negotiations for the duel went on for months, but the duel never took place. Instead, Brooks, known as “Bully” Brooks, lost face as a man who was unwilling to risk his safety to avenge his honor, while Burlingame showed that northerners were eager to fight.

Forgotten now, Burlingame’s speech was once widely considered one of the most important speeches in American history. It marked the moment when northerners shocked southerners by calling them out for what they were, and northerners rallied to Burlingame’s call.

President Biden’s Twitter account has recently been taken over by new White House’s Deputy Director of Platforms Megan Coyne, who garnered attention when she ran the official New Jersey Twitter account with attitude, and it seems as if the administration is taking the new saltiness out for a spin. “All the talk about the deficit from the same folks that gave an unpaid-for $2 trillion tax cut to the wealthy and big corporations. It makes you laugh,” the account said tonight. “Under my Administration, the deficit is on track to come down by more than $1 trillion this year.”


The Recount @therecountSen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), lacking any party introspection, slams Democrats as “radical left-wing lunatics, laptop liberals, and Marxist misfits”: “I wish this country had two normal political parties … We debate crazy things, insanity.” August 24th 202265 Retweets255 Likes

President Biden @POTUSAll the talk about the deficit from the same folks that gave an unpaid-for $2 trillion tax cut to the wealthy and big corporations. It makes you laugh. Under my Administration, the deficit is on track to come down by more than $1 trillion this year.August 27th 202211,144 Retweets51,394 Likes;rgn=subject;size=100;view=image;q1=Slavery

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September 27, 2022
Heather Cox RichardsonSep 28
 Today, President Joe Biden held an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to celebrate the lower drug costs possible thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed without any Republican votes in either the House or the Senate. Phasing in over the next few years, the measure will cap the out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs at $2000 a year and make vaccinations free for seniors on Medicare. If the price of drugs rises faster than inflation, drug companies will have to rebate the difference to Medicare. And Biden noted that today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that the premium for Medicare Part B, which pays for doctor visits, will decrease this year.

All of this was possible, he said, because the biggest corporations in America will have to pay a minimum corporate tax of 15%. “The days of billion-dollar companies paying zero taxes are over.” “And,” he added, “we’re doing all this by bringing down the deficit at the same time. You hear about us being ‘big spenders’? Well, they raised the debt by $2 trillion. We’ve reduced the deficit in my first year, 2021, by $350 billion.”

Biden called out the Republican budget plan, written by Florida senator Rick Scott, to sunset all federal legislation in five years, promising that Congress will reauthorize it if it is worthwhile. This means that every five years, Congress will have to vote to reauthorize Social Security and Medicare or they will end. Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson has gone further, calling for moving Social Security and Medicare spending from mandatory spending, which is protected, to discretionary spending, which must be reapproved every year, thus making it vulnerable to cuts or even elimination.

“I have a different idea,” Biden said. “I’ll protect those programs. I’ll make them stronger. And I’ll lower your cost to be able to keep them.”

Biden likely made this stand, at least in part, because Republican attack ads have been telling seniors that the Democrats have made cuts to Medicare. It is technically true that costs will drop: the government should save $237 billion between 2022 and 2031 from the Inflation Reduction Act’s drug policies. But these savings come from the fact that the IRA lets the federal government negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over prices, not because it will cut the benefits seniors receive.

Disinformation seems to be the hallmark of the midterm campaign.

In June, Republicans championed the overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision protecting the right to abortion, at first insisting that the Dobbs v. Jackson Womens’ Health decision would simply send the question of abortion rights back to the states. Now, with Republican lawmakers calling for a national law outlawing abortion everywhere, those running for election are scrubbing their websites of their abortion stances and downplaying the issue.

But today a 2019 radio interview with Pennsylvania state senator Doug Mastriano, now the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor, emerged. In it, Mastriano said that women obtaining abortions should be charged with murder. Mastriano has tried to say that his personal views are “irrelevant” because the legislature is in charge of rewriting the laws, but last week at Pennsylvania’s March for Life he called abortion rights “the single most important issue…in our lifetime,” and he has said he looks forward to signing restrictive measures into law.

Mastriano has called his Democratic opponent, Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro, extreme, although Shapiro supports current state law.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis has also gotten in on the disinformation game. Texas governor Greg Abbott has been ferrying migrants from the southern border north, appealing to the right-wing base with the argument that such movement will illustrate to “liberal” cities the burdens such migrants impose on the border states. On September 14, DeSantis got into the act, flying 48 unsuspecting migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts. As DeSantis said: “The minute even a small fraction of what those border towns deal with every day are brought to their front door, they all go berserk.”

In fact, the people of Martha’s Vineyard welcomed the migrants, fed and sheltered them, and got them back to the mainland where they could have access to housing and human services. More to the point, it is a myth that Republican-dominated border states are bearing the brunt of migrants seeking asylum. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post asked the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University (TRAC) to figure out where the asylum seekers in the U.S. are.

From court records, TRAC calculated that 750,000 people are awaiting asylum hearings. More than 125,000 of them are in California. More than 110,000 are in New York. About 98,000 are scheduled for hearings in Florida, while about 75,000 are waiting in Texas. Most of the rest are scheduled for court hearings in Democratic-dominated states, such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maryland.

DeSantis’s political performance has drawn attention not only from those who like the cruelty he has displayed, but also from those who have asked questions about the $1.6 million contract his administration signed with air charter company Vertol Systems to move the migrants. NBC’s Marc Caputo noted that Vertol has contributed to DeSantis’s top allies and is well connected to Republican Florida lawmakers. A later plan to fly migrants to Delaware near Biden’s beach home was canceled, and the DeSantis administration refused to release a copy of the Vertol contract.

The Florida state budget that authorized $12 million for moving migrants specified that “unauthorized aliens” were to be flown from “this state”: Florida. The migrants taken to Martha’s Vineyard were not “illegal immigrants” as DeSantis’s office says; they were legally seeking asylum—and thus were “authorized” to be in the U.S.—and were flown not from Florida but simply touched down there on their trip from Texas to Massachusetts.

Shortly before midnight on the day DeSantis shipped the migrants, his deputy press secretary, Jeremy Redfern, tweeted a photograph of former president Barack Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard home, saying “7 bedrooms with 8 and a half bathrooms in a 6,892-square-foot house on nearly 30 acres. Plenty of space.”

Now, Hurricane Ian is about to make landfall in Florida either tomorrow or early Thursday and threatens to be one of the most dangerous and costliest storms in U.S. history. Tonight, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warned that it would hit land as a Category 4 storm. In addition to hurricane-force winds, they predict a storm surge of up to 12 feet between Fort Myers and Sarasota, and up to 2 feet of rain.

In the Rose Garden today, Biden assured people that his administration “is on alert and in action to help the people of Florida.” Biden approved DeSantis’s request for emergency assistance as soon as he received it, sent in federal assistance before the storm hit, and spoke with the mayors of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater, the areas most likely to be in the storm’s path.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has already sent 700 personnel to Florida, along with 3.5 million liters of water, 3.7 million meals, and hundreds of generators. Biden urged people to obey the instructions of local officials: “Your safety is more important than anything.”

Tonight, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted that President Biden spoke with DeSantis this evening about “the steps the Federal government is taking to help Florida prepare for Hurricane Ian. The President and the Governor committed to continued close coordination.”

Because of the storm, the public hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed

Notes:Karine Jean-Pierre @PressSecPresident Biden spoke this evening with Governor DeSantis of Florida to discuss the steps the Federal government is taking to help Florida prepare for Hurricane Ian. The President and the Governor committed to continued close coordination.September 27th 2022940 Retweets5,516 Likes Biden @POTUSToday, @HHSGov announced that premiums for Medicare Part B will decrease next year. That’s the fee you pay for Medicare to cover your visits to your doctor. For years that fee has gone up. But now, for the first time in more than a decade, it’ll go down.September 27th 20225,182 Retweets22,305 Likes Redfern @JeremyRedfernFL7 bedrooms with 8 and a half bathrooms in a 6,892-square-foot house on nearly 30 acres. Plenty of space. September 15th 2022526 Retweets3,242 Likes

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September 26, 2022Heather Cox Richardson

Sep 27

 A headline in the New York Times today read: “Factory Jobs Are Booming Like It’s the 1970s.” The story explained that more money in the hands of consumers thanks to federal stimulus spending, along with a new skepticism of stretched supply lines, has created a rebound in American manufacturing.

Since the 1970s, authors Jim Tankersley, Alan Rappeport, and Ana Swanson explain, outsourcing and automation have meant that every recession has seen factory jobs disappear and never return as employers used downturns to move operations to countries with lower wage levels. This time, though, American manufacturers have not only regained all the jobs lost during the pandemic, they have also added about 67,000 more. Those numbers would be higher if the labor market weren’t so tight, a condition leading employers to offer higher wages and better benefits.

Biden has made it clear that he is trying to overturn 40 years of “supply side” economics, ushered in by President Ronald Reagan. This system was designed to free up capital at the top of the economy through tax cuts and deregulation in the belief that putting capital in the hands of the wealthy—the “supply side”— would lead them to invest more in the economy, thus making it grow more quickly and providing more jobs. While Republicans came to embrace that ideology wholeheartedly, in fact it never showed signs of increasing economic growth. What it did was to move wealth dramatically upward. It also made the measure of the economy the health of Wall Street rather than Main Street.

Since Abraham Lincoln’s administration, which faced a similar economic stratification and a similar justification for it, another approach to the economy has stood against this ideology. Leaders from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to Franklin Delano Roosevelt have argued that providing opportunity for people at the lower end of the economy—the “demand side”—would drive production and consumption, spreading prosperity upward. Biden has followed in this tradition. Insisting that he would build the economy “from the bottom up and the middle out,” he, along with the Democrats in Congress, bolstered domestic manufacturing with measures like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act.

Now, statistics show, that investment has paid off. Chad Moutray, the chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers, told the New York Times reporters: ​​“We have 67,000 more workers today than we had in February 2020. I didn’t think we would get there, to be honest with you.”

National Economic Council director Brian Deese told the reporters, “One of the most striking things that we are seeing now is the number of companies—U.S. companies and global companies—that are committing to build and expand their manufacturing footprint in the United States, and doing so based on their view that not only did the pandemic highlight the need for more resilience in their supply chains, but that the United States is creating a policy environment that makes long-term investment here in the United States more attractive.”

Meanwhile, the real net worth of the bottom 50% of U.S. households has climbed 60% since Biden took office, now reaching $67,524.

One of the things that will continue to feed this change is the plan to forgive significant student loan debt, especially among low-income Black and Brown Americans. This story is hitting the news today after the Congressional Budget Office responded to a series of questions posed by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), both fervently opposed to the program. The CBO’s responses to those specific questions have been widely published, suggesting the program will cost the U.S. $400 billion. This is sparking cries about its expense, but this particular CBO number calculates the cost over the next 30 years rather than the usual ten, does not address the stimulus effects of the relief, and does not take into account how much anyone would actually have repaid. The estimate is, the CBO states in its letter, “highly uncertain.”

In contrast to Biden’s economic program, on Friday the new government of Prime Minister Liz Truss announced the most radical tax cuts in Britain since 1972, cutting the top income tax rate as well as corporate taxes to spur the economy. This unfunded cut will mean borrowing at rising interest rates. Concerns about inflation, already hammering the British economy, made the value of the pound, which is the English unit of currency, drop to its lowest level since 1985.

These different economic visions are in conflict here in the United States. Former Trump economic advisor Steve Moore reacted to the Truss tax cuts by saying: “This is exactly what we should be doing in the US.” White House economic advisor Jared Bernstein said: “President Biden has been very clear about the negative track record of trickle-down, Reagan-style tax cuts.”

Republicans have managed to keep voters behind their economic program by downplaying it and emphasizing cultural issues, primarily abortion, which reliably turned out anti-abortion voters. Now that the Supreme Court has overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, Republicans have a demographic problem: a majority of voters support reproductive rights and are turning out to vote, and there is no longer a reason for anti-abortion voters to show up.

So Republican leaders are downplaying abortion: reporter Eric Garcia noted today that Republican representative and Senate candidate Ted Budd (R-NC), who is a cosponsor of the House version of Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) national abortion bill, didn’t mention his stance in a recent rally with former president Trump. They are also inventing new cultural crises, most notably an attack on LGBTQIA folks but also a renewed attack on immigrants.

Trump has gone further, jumping aboard the QAnon train, which the FBI considers a domestic terrorism threat, as his own legal troubles are mounting. His lawyers failed to slow down the criminal investigation into his theft of documents, including many marked with the highest levels of classification. New York Attorney General Letitia James has sued Trump, his company, and his children and two associates for fraud. And now the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol is beginning to turn up more information.

On Friday the committee subpoenaed Wisconsin House Speaker Robin Vos to ask about a phone call he had with Trump in July 2022 (not a typo) in which Trump tried to get him to change the 2020 result in Wisconsin. Vos is challenging the subpoena.

In the lead-up to Wednesday’s midday public hearing of the committee, Zachary Cohen of CNN reported today that election denier Phil Waldron, a former Army colonel associated with Trump loyalist Michael Flynn, was in contact with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in late December 2020 about gaining access to the voting systems in Arizona and Georgia. Waldron referred to Arizona as “our lead domino we were counting on to start the cascade,” to overturn the election.

Meanwhile, Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, was texting QAnon links to Meadows. And now, after flirting with QAnon since 2020, Trump has embraced it wholeheartedly, first “retruthing” social media posts featuring him as a QAnon hero and warning that “The Storm Is Coming,” then using QAnon music at a rally. Now, he has sent out an email calling for the death penalty for drug dealers—a favorite theme of fascists since the 1930s and a major part of the program of former dictator Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, whom Trump admires—along with the warning that “Under Democrat control, the streets of our great cities are drenched in the blood of innocent victims,” tapping into the QAnon themes of violent retribution for those they see as preying on America’s youth.

“I certainly will do whatever it takes to make sure Donald Trump isn’t anywhere close to the Oval Office,” Representative Liz Cheney said this weekend at The Texas Tribune Festival, which highlights politics and policy. “And if he is the nominee, I won’t be a Republican.” She warned that a Republican majority in the House would empower Trump Republicans like Jim Jordan (OH), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), and Lauren Boebert (CO).

And when asked if Trump should testify before the committee, Cheney answered: “Any interaction that Donald Trump has with the committee will be under oath and subject to penalty of perjury.”—Notes:Jeff Stein @JStein_WaPoFormer Trump economic adviser Steve Moore on Liz Truss tax policy: “I’m very supportive of what they’re doing. This is exactly what we should be doing in the US … I’m surprised the market has not reacted positivity but I think that’s going to reverse course”September 26th 202255 Retweets363 Likes Doney @David_ChartsReal net worth of the bottom 50% households set another record in Q2 ’22, reaching $67,524, up 10% from last quarter and up 60% since Biden started. This is driven by home prices, big wage gains, and full employment.…ImageSeptember 26th 2022455 Retweets1,022 Likes Klain @WHCOSIf you want apples-to-apples, note that this is a THIRTY year score; most often, CBO estimates a program’s cost over its first TEN years. When @POTUS announced this, the WH said it would cost about $24b in the first year. This @USCBO estimate puts the first year cost at $21B. Peter Baker @peterbakernytBiden’s plan to wipe out significant amounts of student loan debt for tens of millions of borrowers could cost about $400 billion, the nonpartisan CBO reports, renewing the debate over his decision. ⁦@katierogers⁩ 26th 2022932 Retweets2,804 Likes Cheney @kyledcheneyNEWS: The Jan. 6 select committee subpoenaed Wisconsin House Speaker Robin Vos over the weekend and is seeking his testimony by *today* about a July phone call he had with Donald Trump.…ImageImageSeptember 26th 20222,329 Retweets7,326 Likes/photo/1 Klaas @brianklaasThe former president, many of his aides, Republican members of Congress, and the wife of a Supreme Court justice, are all directly promoting QAnon—which the FBI classifies as a domestic terrorism threat. The GOP has become an authoritarian, conspiracist, extremist party. 60 Minutes @60MinutesGinni Thomas, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, texted links tied to QAnon to ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to former Jan. 6th staffer Denver Riggleman. Riggleman says her actions “should be an eye opener for everybody” 26th 2022473 Retweets1,172 LikesJeff Sharlet @JeffSharletBig: Trump follows up his full QAnon embrace with email labeled “The Death Penalty,” calling for execution of drug dealers & signaling to Q, I’d argue, many more executions after that. No question he’s borrowing from former Philippines dictator Duterte, whom he admires & envies. September 26th 2022124 Retweets312 Likes/photo/1

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Ben Graffam

Mon, September 26, 2022 at 7:11 AM

Ben Graffam retired from teaching at International Baccalaureate East in Haines City. He is also the author of "Reimagining the Educated Mind," published by Rowman and Littlefield, in 2019.
Ben Graffam retired from teaching at International Baccalaureate East in Haines City. He is also the author of “Reimagining the Educated Mind,” published by Rowman and Littlefield, in 2019.

As a former educator I looked for learning engagements that encouraged students to think for themselves, to navigate divergent paths of understanding with confidence, and to come out on the other side with qualified precepts or corollaries that allowed real-world applications of their learning.

Often that meant dealing with differences between believing and knowing, with opinion and decision-making. Many people confuse these knowledge concepts, thinking their opinions are equivalent to evidence-based knowledge, and that what they believe is just as valid as what justified knowledge demonstrates. My hope was that students would work through these differences before they joined the real world.

We can see the damage that misconstruing these distinctions creates. Suddenly (it seems) we have a large amount of people who believe not only the claims of a stolen election but also that keeping top secret documents is OK even when the law clearly states it is not.

People often believe things that won’t happen or aren’t true, letting their opinions direct their decisions. The trouble is, knowledge and critical thought don’t work that way.

Decisions, when well made, are based on ethical judgments and intellectual rigor. Mental algorithms which involve empirical evidence and rational thought help a person make better, though not always perfect, decisions. Within those algorithms, honesty and integrity recognize the need to eliminate bias, or at least to set it aside.

Opinions, on the other hand, can be, and often are, founded on no facts or ethics at all. Many Americans believe the last election was stolen; many of the same believe Donald Trump had every right to keep top secret documents at home. But no matter how deeply they believe, they will not find evidence to show that either of these claims is defensible. Laws restrict particular documents from non-governmentally secured places, and evidence shows that no fraudulent voting played a role in the outcome of the 2020 election.

These people may have faith in the person who told them the election was stolen, but faith is not the way to go when navigating the difficult path of understanding.

I tried to get my students to see that in some situations, faith and belief are perfect methods, but in other situations, neither faith, nor belief works: more often than not, evidence matters.

Evidence is obtained systematically, by observing and collecting data, which is then analyzed and understood by rational, impartial minds. Someone seeing that the player who just sank the three pointer had her toe on the line knows the shot is only worth two points, no matter which team that someone is rooting for. Evidence makes a clear point.

The same is true for an election and for the laws regarding secret documents. Each time independent counters and observers audited the outcomes of different precincts around the country in the 2020 election the results were always stable. The election was not stolen. Evidence wins over belief in this situation.

As an educator, I knew this was an important concept of understanding, because I also knew that many people in our culture have not learned and do not follow that concept. Too many feel their beliefs were just as valid as the facts when it came to things like elections and securing top secret documents.

Now we see many politicians, elected to uphold the values of process and critical observation, and to understand the differences between belief and knowledge, speak against the systems that were put in place to protect and keep our republic.

That this doesn’t shock us shows how far our political biases have bent out of shape.

Our culture is mocking the process of understanding the world we live in. Rather than acknowledging the evidence of an accurately counted and properly audited election, people cast doubt upon the system of voting that has been a mainstay of our republic and a model of world government, all in the name of belief; rather than allowing the systems of justice that have been developed to prevent undemocratic processes to take hold, we allow name-callers to belittle and derail constitutional mandates, all in the name of belief.

The America many of us believe in comes from the knowledge that the systems we have put in place will work. Let’s hope the wiser heads of our nation, and those systems, prevail.

Ben Graffam retired from teaching at International Baccalaureate East in Haines City. He is also the author of “Reimagining the Educated Mind,” published by Rowman and Littlefield, in 2019.

This article originally appeared on The Ledger: 




September 23, 20226:32 PM CDTLast Updated 2 days ago


Sept 23 (Reuters) – Some investors are backing out of Digital World Acquisition Corp’s (DWAC.O) plan to acquire former U.S. President Donald Trump’s social media firm Truth Social, the blank-check firm said on Friday.

Digital World said it had received termination notices from private investment in public equity (PIPE) investors ending nearly $139 million in investments out of the $1 billion commitment it had previously announced.

Investors, who signed the PIPE commitment about one year ago, are free to move their money after the Sept. 20, 2022 deadline if the deal has not completed.

Digital World did not disclose the investors that pulled out. Sources told Reuters Sabby Management, which had committed $100 million to the PIPE, is one of the investors who have terminated.

Sabby Management declined to comment.

More investors could pull out in the next few weeks, sources said, as they can terminate anytime after the deadline. Many are waiting for DWAC to propose more preferred terms to PIPE investors, sources added.

The deal between the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) and Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG), which owns Truth Social, has been on ice due to civil and criminal probes into the circumstances around the agreement.

TMTG did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The SPAC had been hoping the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which is reviewing Digital World’s disclosures on the deal, would have given its blessing by now.

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Heather Cox RichardsonSep 25

In Arizona, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson has restored a law put into effect by Arizona’s Territorial legislature in 1864 and then reworked in 1901 that has been widely interpreted as a ban on all abortions except to save a woman’s life. Oddly, I know quite a bit about the 1864 Arizona Territorial legislature, and its story matters as we think about the attempt to impose its will in modern America.

In fact, the Civil War era law seems not particularly concerned with women handling their own reproductive care—it actually seems to ignore that practice entirely. The laws for this territory, chaotic and still at war in 1864, appear to reflect the need to rein in a lawless population of men.

The criminal code talks about “miscarriage” in the context of other male misbehavior. It focuses at great length on dueling, for example— making illegal not only the act of dueling (punishable by three years in jail) but also having anything to do with a duel. And then, in the section that became the law now resurrected in Arizona, the law takes on the issue of poisoning.

In that context, the context of punishing those who secretly administer poison to kill someone, it says that anyone who uses poison or instruments “with the intention to procure the miscarriage of any woman then being with child” would face two to five years in jail, “Provided, that no physician shall be affected by the last clause of this section, who in the discharge of his professional duties deems it necessary to produce the miscarriage of any woman in order to save her life.”

The next section warns against cutting out tongues or eyes, slitting noses or lips, or “rendering…useless” someone’s arm or leg.

The law that is currently interpreted to outlaw abortion care seemed designed to keep men in the chaos of the Civil War from inflicting damage on others—including pregnant women—rather than to police women’s reproductive care, which women largely handled on their own or through the help of doctors who used drugs and instruments to remove what they called dangerous blockages of women’s natural cycles in the four to five months before fetal movement became obvious.

Written to police the behavior of men, the code tells a larger story about power and control.

The Arizona Territorial legislature in 1864 had 18 men in the lower House of Representatives and 9 men in the upper house, the Council, for a total of 27 men. They met on September 26, 1864, in Prescott. The session ended about six weeks later, on November 10.

The very first thing the legislators did was to authorize the governor to appoint a commissioner to prepare a code of laws for the territory. But William T. Howell, a judge who had arrived in the territory the previous December, had already written one, which the legislature promptly accepted as a blueprint.

Although they did discuss his laws, the members later thanked Judge Howell for “preparing his excellent and able Code of Laws” and, as a mark of their appreciation, provided that the laws would officially be called “The Howell Code.” (They also paid him a handsome $2500, which was equivalent to at least 5 years’ salary for a workingman in that era.) Judge Howell wrote the territory’s criminal code essentially single-handedly.

The second thing the legislature did was to give a member of the House of Representatives a divorce from his wife.

Then they established a county road near Prescott.

Then they gave a local army surgeon a divorce from his wife.

In a total of 40 laws, the legislature incorporated a number of road companies, railway companies, ferry companies, and mining companies. They appropriated money for schools and incorporated the Arizona Historical Society.

These 27 men constructed a body of laws to bring order to the territory and to jump-start development. But their vision for the territory was a very particular one.

The legislature provided that “No black or mulatto, or Indian, Mongolian, or Asiatic, shall be permitted to [testify in court] against any white person,” thus making it impossible for them to protect their property, their families, or themselves from their white neighbors. It declared that “all marriages between a white person and a [Black person], shall…be absolutely void.”

And it defined the age of consent for sexual intercourse to be just ten years old (even if a younger child had “consented”).

So, in 1864, a legislature of 27 white men created a body of laws that discriminated against Black people and people of color and considered girls as young as 10 able to consent to sex, and they adopted a body of criminal laws written by one single man.

And in 2022, one of those laws is back in force in Arizona.


John S. Goff, “William T. Howell and the Howell Code of Arizona,” American Journal of Legal History 11 (July 1967): 221–233.

Acts, Resolutions and Memorials, Adopted by the First Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Arizona (Prescott: Office of the Arizona Miner, 1865). 

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September 23, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson
Sep 24
 Today, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who took over as the chair of the House Republican Conference after the party rejected Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) for her refusal to back the January 6 insurrection, released the House Republicans’ plan for the country.

Covering just a single page, it presents vague aspirations—many of which Biden has already put in place—but focuses on the radical extremes of the MAGA party while trying to make those extremes sound mild.

The so-called “Commitment to America” calls for a strong economy, a safe nation, a free future, and an accountable government. So far, so good.

But the first topic—making the economy strong—is a paraphrase of what the Biden administration has been doing. The Republicans call for fighting inflation and lowering the cost of living, making America energy independent, bringing down gas prices, strengthening the supply chain, and ending the country’s dependence on China.

This is quite literally the platform of the Democrats, but while the Republicans offer no actual proposals to contribute to these goals, Biden has taken concrete steps to address inflation by taking on the shipping monopolies that hiked transportation costs, for example, while Democrats in Congress have passed legislation capping the cost of certain prescription medications. Biden has released reserves to help combat high gas prices, which have now fallen close to their cost last March—a barrel of oil is now under $80—while expanding our nation’s pool of truck drivers and just last week averting a train strike that would have endangered supply chains. The incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act are designed specifically to make America energy independent while addressing climate change, and Biden’s extraordinary efforts to support economic development in the Indo-Pacific region, along with the CHIPS and Science Act, were explicitly designed to reduce U.S. dependence on China.

It feels rather as if the Republicans recognize that Biden’s policies are popular, and are hoping that voters haven’t noticed that he is actually putting them in place.

Then the document gets to the heart of its argument, recycling MAGA talking points in language that makes it very attractive. Who doesn’t want national safety, for example?

But national safety is described here as securing the border and combatting illegal immigration (something already in place), adding 200,000 police officers through recruiting bonuses, cracking down on prosecutors and district attorneys who refuse to prosecute crimes (this is likely directed at those who say they will not prosecute women for obtaining abortions), criminalizing all fentanyl, and supporting our troops and exercising peace through strength (which likely means reversing Biden’s emphasis on multilateral diplomacy to return to using the U.S. military as a global enforcer)— all MAGA demands.

“A Future That’s Built on Freedom” is a similar sleight of hand, meaning something far from the freedom of the recent past. Here it means giving parents control over their childrens’ education (more book banning and laws that prohibit teaching subjects that make students “uncomfortable”), “defend[ing] fairness by ensuring that only women can compete in women’s sports” (there’s the anti-trans statement), achieving “longer, healthier lives for Americans” by what appears to be getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, and what appears to be a defense of the use of ivermectin and other quack cures popular on the right (“lower prices through transparency, choice, and competition,” “invest in lifesaving cures,” and “improve access to telemedicine”). It also demands confronting “Big Tech” to make it fair, which is likely a reference to the right wing’s conviction that social media discriminates against it by banning hate speech.

The section about accountable government calls for preserving constitutional freedoms, which they interpret as an apparent national ban on abortion—a constitutional right until this past June—saying they will “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.” They defend “religious freedom,” which the right wing, including the Supreme Court, has interpreted as freedom for Christian schools to receive public tax money and for Christian coaches to pray with students. The document also calls for safeguarding the Second Amendment, which the right wing has increasingly interpreted since the 1970s to mean that the government cannot regulate gun ownership.

This section of the document calls for rigorous oversight of the government “to rein in government abuse of power and corruption,” providing “real transparency,” and requiring the White House “to answer for its incompetence at home and abroad.” It also says Republicans will “save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare.”

While the part of this section that calls for stopping government abuse and incompetence seems rich coming from the MAGA Republicans, the statement that they intend to protect Social Security and Medicare strikes me as I felt when hearing Trump tell voters in 2020 that he would protect Obamacare at the very time his lawyers were in court trying to overturn the law. Now, in this moment, leading Republicans have vowed to get rid of Social Security and Medicare, which is an interesting way to “save and strengthen” them.

Similarly, the section promising to “restore the people’s voice” calls for voting restrictions.

In short, the document feels like the doublespeak from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. To defend the indefensible, Orwell wrote in an essay titled “Politics and the English Language,” “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness…. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who focused on the power of language to alter reality and who helped to write the 1994 Contract with America that enabled the Republicans to take control of the House for the first time since 1954, worked on this document. The Contract with America, which party leaders called a contract as a promise that it would be binding, led the Republicans to shut down the government for 28 days between November 1995 and January 1996 to get their way before they entirely abandoned the “contract.”

To sell today’s document to voters, Republicans used a slick video, but Jennifer Bendery of HuffPost noted that the film uses stock videos from Russia and Ukraine in its “Commitment to America.” When Bendery reached out to McCarthy for comment, his spokesperson Mark Bednar responded: “Interesting how you guys aren’t remotely interested in the issues facing the American people in the video.”

But will it work? The document tries to win Trump voters without actually mentioning Trump, who now alienates all but his fervent supporters. But he continues to dominate the Republican Party and to grab the headlines. Tonight, 60 Minutes teased a story that will broadcast on Sunday and is already raising eyebrows. In it, Denver Riggleman, former senior tech advisor for the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, said that the White House switchboard connected a call to a rioter’s phone while the Capitol was under siege on January 6, 2021.—Notes: Minutes @60MinutesThe White House switchboard connected a call to a rioter while the Capitol was under siege on January 6, 2021, according to former January 6 committee staffer Denver Riggleman. “I only know one end of that call,” Riggleman said. 23rd 202213,260 Retweets32,088 Likes Klain @WHCOSOil has fallen below $80/barrel today. This makes this @POTUS message from yesterday even more compelling. President Biden @POTUSGas prices fell by $1.30 this summer, that’s good news for families. But energy companies are making record profits and retailer margins are 30% above normal. That’s money that should be in folks’ pockets. Industry must pass savings on to consumers by lowering prices. Now.September 23rd 2022593 Retweets2,240 LikesShareLikeCommentShare


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Heather Cox RichardsonSep 20

On Saturday, the anniversary of the day in 1787 on which the Framers signed the U.S. Constitution, Attorney General Merrick Garland administered the oath of allegiance to 200 immigrants in the Great Hall at Ellis Island. From 1892 to 1954, nearly 12 million immigrants stopped on the island as part of their journey to the United States, and from 1900 to 1924, the Great Hall was filled with as many as 5000 new arrivals a day, sitting on benches under the high ceiling that had been tiled in the spectacular patterns of Spanish-born architect Rafael Guastavino—who came to the U.S. in 1881—where they awaited health inspections and registration. 

“It is my great honor to welcome you as the newest citizens of the United States of America,” Garland said. “Congratulations!… Just now, each of you took an oath of allegiance to the United States. In so doing, you took your place alongside generations who came before you, many through this very building, seeking protection, freedom, and opportunity. This country—your country—wholeheartedly welcomes you.”

As an introduction to the message he wanted to deliver, both to the new citizens and to old ones, Garland spoke of his own history as the grandson and son-in-law of those fleeing religious persecution, who came to the U.S. for the protection of our laws.  

“The protection of law—the Rule of Law—is the foundation of our system of government,” the attorney general said.

“The Rule of Law means that the same laws apply to all of us, regardless of whether we are this country’s newest citizens or whether our [families] have been here for generations.

“The Rule of Law means that the law treats each of us alike: there is not one rule for friends, another for foes; one rule for the powerful, another for the powerless; a rule for the rich, another for the poor; or different rules, depending upon one’s race or ethnicity or country of origin.

“The Rule of Law means that we are all protected in the exercise of our civil rights; in our freedom to worship and think as we please; and in the peaceful expression of our opinions, our beliefs, and our ideas.

“Of course, we still have work to do to make a more perfect union. Although the Rule of Law has always been our guiding light, we have not always been faithful to it. 

“The Rule of Law is not assured. It is fragile. It demands constant effort and vigilance.

“The responsibility to ensure the Rule of Law is and has been the duty of every generation in our country’s history. It is now your duty as well. And it is one that is especially urgent today at a time of intense polarization in America.”

Garland went on to ask the people in the room to share a promise “that each of us will protect each other and our democracy,” that “we will uphold the Rule of Law and seek to make real the promise of equal justice under law,” and that “we will do what is right, even if that means doing what is difficult.”

It is hard to imagine that his words were not intended to convey that he intends to follow the legal trails left behind by the former administration wherever they lead. 

Certainly, the former president, who is under scrutiny for stealing national secrets, scheming to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and inciting mob violence against the U.S. government, appears to be concerned.

Over the weekend, in a rally on Saturday in Ohio, Trump made it clear that he is no longer playing with a violent, extremist base, but rather cultivating it. In the days before the event, he “retruthed” posts from the conspiracy theory QAnon, whose followers believe that he is leading a secret war against pedophiles and cannibals and that he will soon be placed back into power, arrest his Democratic enemies, try them, and execute some of them. That moment of his return is called “the Storm,” and one of his “retruths” assured his audience that “The Storm is Coming.” The rally played the QAnon theme song—or something so like it as to be indistinguishable from it—and featured other QAnon-adjacent politicians. 

Trump seems to know he is down to his last line of supporters, and he is rallying them to be ready to commit violence on his behalf, much as he did in the weeks before January 6, 2021. But the rally appeared to have attracted only a few thousand people, a far cry from the crowds he commanded when he was in office. His power resides now primarily in his ability to deliver or withhold his supporters, whom the party desperately needs. In exchange for delivering his supporters, Greg Sargent of the Washington Post points out, Trump seems to be demanding that a Republican Congress put an end to his legal troubles. 

Those legal troubles are mounting. 

On September 5, 2022, Judge Aileen Cannon granted Trump’s request for a special master to review the materials FBI agents seized in their search of Mar-a-Lago on August 8. Those  materials included more than 100 that bore classified markings, some at the highest levels. Cannon ordered the Department of Justice to stop its criminal investigation of Trump until the special master reviews the material. The DOJ asked Cannon to reconsider, because its ongoing review of the national security damage is tied to the criminal investigation. She refused and, at Trump’s team’s suggestion, appointed Judge Raymond Dearie special master. 

Legal scholars say Cannon’s rulings are deeply problematic, but they looked as if they would buy Trump time until after the midterms, when Republicans might have control of one or both houses of Congress to help him out. While they are appealing the ruling, the DOJ is also responding to it.

A filing tonight shows that Dearie has ordered all inspection and labeling done by October 7, rather than the November 30 date the Trump team expected. It also shows that Dearie has asked Trump to specify which documents he claims to have declassified before claiming them as his property. Trump’s lawyers say they don’t want to tell the judge anything specific about what Trump might or might not have declassified, suggesting they want to reserve that for a possible criminal case.

Former U.S. attorney and legal commenter Joyce White Vance noted that he is “presumably avoiding the need to acknowledge he lied until after the midterm elections.” 

As Trump faces legal trouble, Florida governor Ron DeSantis appears to be trying to gather Trump’s voters to himself with his stunt of sending migrants to Martha’s Vineyard off Massachusetts with a camera crew that gave video footage to the Fox News Channel but without telling Massachusetts authorities the migrants were coming. It was performative cruelty designed to show “liberals” rejecting immigrants in their backyards, and the fact that the people of Martha’s Vineyard welcomed them and got them back to the mainland and to shelter did not change that narrative in right-wing media: officials have been swamped with angry phone calls about their “hypocrisy,” and today a small plane towed a banner over the island reading, “Vineyard Hypocrites.” 

But Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo noted all along that DeSantis’s story didn’t add up. He is a Florida governor, but he moved people from Texas, and the story is hardly one that looks like a government operation. It appears that a tall, blonde woman going by “Perla” worked with two men and two other women to find migrants to move, promising them work and housing in Massachusetts and putting them up in a hotel until they got 48 people to go. 

Judd Legum of Popular Information added the piece that the migrants were not undocumented, as DeSantis repeatedly claimed, but in fact are here legally after applying for asylum. Someone gave them brochures promising 8 months’ cash assistance, food, housing, clothing, job training, and so on, benefits available only to a specific and small category of refugees, which they are not. 

If they were misled about either their destination or their opportunities, those lying to them might run up against legal charges. For their part, DeSantis and Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez say it is “categorically false” that they were misled.  

Tonight, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office in Texas announced it has opened up a criminal investigation.

There is one man tonight who is not worried about further legal troubles, though. The administration today secured the release of Mark Frerichs, kidnapped in Afghanistan in January 2020 and held for 31 months, by exchanging him for Bashir Noorzai, who was sentenced to life in prison for drug trafficking in 2009. 

[Guastavino ceiling at Ellis Island:]


Kyle Cheney @kyledcheneyJUST IN: Special Master Dearie has asked Trump’s team for declarations about any acftions he’s taken to declassify material. Trump’s team says i n a filing tonight that it is resisting that request — because it could be a defense to any criminal cahrges.…


September 19th 20223,377 Retweets11,201 Likes

Joyce Alene @JoyceWhiteVanceMy favorite part is that Trump doesn’t want to have to provide any information about his supposed declassifications under early November-presumably avoiding the need to acknowledge he lied until after the midterm elections. S. Phang @KatiePhangNEW: Trump’s defense team in panic mode: Special Master demanding Trump “disclose specific information regarding declassification to the Court and to the Government…will force [Trump] to fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment…”September 20th 20221,314 Retweets5,727 Likes

Judd Legum @JuddLegumUPDATE: The Bexar County Texas Sheriff has launched a criminal investigation into DeSantis’ scheme…

Judd Legum@JuddLegum1. has obtained documentary evidence that migrants from Venezuela were provided with false info to induce them to board flights chartered by @RonDeSantisFL The documents suggest that the flights violated criminal law. 🧵

September 19th 2022277 Retweets1,128 Likes

Popular Information

The smoking gun in Martha’s Vineyard

Popular Information has obtained documentary evidence that migrants from Venezuela were provided with false information to convince them to board flights chartered by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R). The do…

Read more

19 hours ago · 330 likes · 76 comments · Judd Legum

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Heather Cox RichardsonSep 18

In 1761, 55-year-old Benjamin Franklin attended the coronation of King George III and later wrote that he expected the young monarch’s reign would “be happy and truly glorious.” Then, in 1776, he helped to draft and then signed the Declaration of Independence. An 81-year-old man in 1787, he urged his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia to rally behind the new plan of government they had written. 

“I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them,” he said, “For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.”

The framers of the new constitution hoped it would fix the problems of the first attempt to create a new nation. During the Revolutionary War, the Second Continental Congress had hammered out a plan for a confederation of states, but with fears of government tyranny still uppermost in lawmakers’ minds, they centered power in the states rather than in a national government. 

The result—the Articles of Confederation—was a “firm league of friendship” among the 13 new states, overseen by a congress of men chosen by the state legislatures and in which each state had one vote. The new pact gave the federal government few duties and even fewer ways to meet them. Indicating their inclinations, in the first substantive paragraph the authors of the agreement said: “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.” 

Within a decade, the states were refusing to contribute money to the new government and were starting to contemplate their own trade agreements with other countries. An economic recession in 1786 threatened farmers in western Massachusetts with the loss of their farms when the state government in the eastern part of the state refused relief; in turn, when farmers led by Revolutionary War captain Daniel Shays marched on Boston, propertied men were so terrified their own property would be seized that they raised their own army for protection. 

The new system clearly could not protect property of either the poor or the rich and thus faced the threat of landless mobs. The nation seemed on the verge of tearing itself apart, and the new Americans were all too aware that both England and Spain were standing by, waiting to make the most of the opportunities such chaos would create.

And so, in 1786, leaders called for a reworking of the new government centered not on the states, but on the people of the nation represented by a national government. The document began, “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union….” 

The Constitution established a representative democracy, a republic, in which three branches of government would balance each other to prevent the rise of a tyrant. Congress would write all “necessary and proper” laws, levy taxes, borrow money, pay the nation’s debts, establish a postal service, establish courts, declare war, support an army and navy, organize and call forth “the militia to execute the Laws of the Union” and “provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” 

The president would execute the laws, but if Congress overstepped, the president could veto proposed legislation. In turn, Congress could override a presidential veto. Congress could declare war, but the president was the commander in chief of the army and had the power to make treaties with foreign powers. It was all quite an elegant system of paths and tripwires, really.

A judicial branch would settle disputes between inhabitants of the different states and guarantee every defendant a right to a jury trial.

In this system, the new national government was uppermost. The Constitution provided that “[t]he Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States,” and promised that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion….”

Finally, it declared: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

“I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such,” Franklin said after a weary four months spent hashing it out, “because I think a general Government necessary for us,” and, he said, it “astonishes me…to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our…States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats.” “On the whole,” he said to his colleagues, “I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility—and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.”

On September 17, 1787, they did.


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