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There’s No Doubt the GOP Now Has Weapons of Mass Destruction [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Check the bylines, thanks. Updates at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

I’ve been frozen by anguish and anger, unable to write something about the mass murder in Uvalde, Texas. Whatever I dump here emerges from this, and some of it will be others’ words because they’ve said it better and more succinctly.

~ ~ ~

We’ve had some discussion in one of the threads about Beto O’Rourke’s attempt to question current Texas governor Greg Abbott about Abbott’s response to Uvalde.

Abbott’s minions shouted down O’Rourke, who as a Texan was entitled to know what the state’s top elected official was doing in response to the mass murder.

This encapsulates everything which is wrong with Abbott — he and the people he surrounds himself with don’t give a flying fuck about Texans. The Abbott administration is a goddamned joke.

This careless disregard will affect more than a couple of generations of Texans who’ve already had to deal with Abbott’s general uselessness against Texas’s isolated energy grid which killed a child along with 110 other Texans in 2021.

57.5% of Texas is not white; the largest portion of this non-white population is Hispanic/Latin, making up 39.3% of the state’s citizens according to a badly-run 2020 US Census which undercounted Texas citizens and undocumented residents alike.

Which means Texas is more than 40% Hispanic/Latin and Gov. Greg Abbott could give a flying fuck how they feel about Tuesday’s mass murder he enabled by signing an bill with the loosest open carry regulations in the nation.

He really hasn’t given but lip service after previous mass murders with assault weapons in his state, supporting increasing laxity about gun control in Texas in spite of six mass shootings since he was first elected governor in 2015.

Not just supporting increasing laxity, but doing so in the face of a majority’s support for increased gun controls from banning assault rifles to background checks before sales.

The Texas Tribune does a phenomenal job of laying out how Abbott has consistently ignored Texans’ sentiments while not pointing a finger at him alone. Abbott is doing what the GOP and its foreign-financed sponsor the National Rifle Association have wanted him to do: demoralize Texans and destabilize it so that state and federal government are undermined and lose support of the people.

~ ~ ~

We had quite a few heated discussions here in the wake of George Floyd’s murder-by-cop and subsequent protests against police abuse. The heat focused on “defunding the police” rather than the problem itself: increasing militarization of the police at all levels has not led to fewer murders-by-cop, nor to reducing the number of BIPOC Americans murdered by cop, extrajudicially executed by police who’ve more or less been granted absolute immunity because of the way “qualified immunity” has been applied.

Stop arguing about the effectiveness of the message, “defund the police.” Don’t even try to offer “reform policing” as an alternative. Not when police stood by and let a shooter terrorize and murder a classroom yesterday, restraining parents from going in to help, whisking cops’ kids to safety, coaching potential victims to yell for police help only to have the shooter kill a victim who yelled, “Help!”


These people right here:


called the U.S. Border Patrol to help them unlock a fucking classroom door.

$4 million a year –40% of its annual budget — plus grants the city of Uvalde has spent on policing only to have their police attacking frightened parents in some twisted form of crowd control as they stood there outside a locked classroom waiting for the gunman to do whatever it was he was going to do.

Greg Abbott went to a fundraiser that evening even as the blood of children and their teacher dried on the floor of that once locked classroom, as their parents’ DNA was collected for identifying the victims who had surely be turned into mincemeat by an AR-15. That was his response to the mass shooting: pay me, I’m delivering for you, he is telling his sponsors who are perfectly alright with a demoralized, destabilized Texas.

This is the response of police elsewhere: double down on what hasn’t worked since 1999 in Columbine.

[Tweet deleted by Rochester @News_8 which said police there were looking into more active shooter training]

It’s only a matter of time before we are offered the excuse that the AR-15 armed killer could take out Uvalde’s police the way the AR-15 armed killer took out the armed guard at the grocery store in Buffalo NY during a mass shooting ten days earlier.

Except there’s no comparison between a lone security guard not wearing a plate carrier and a militarized SWAT team which should have had far more training to deal with a lone gunman situation.

We’ve already heard the excuse from that malignant sluggard Abbott that the shooter was mentally ill, an assumption based on little to know evidence. And of course Abbott is responsible for the cutting funding for mental health care in Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the Uvalde school shooter had a “mental health challenge” and the state needed to “do a better job with mental health” — yet in April he slashed $211 million from the department that oversees mental health programs.

In addition, Texas ranked last out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia for overall access to mental health care, according to the 2021 State of Mental Health in America report.

“We as a state, we as a society, need to do a better job with mental health,” Abbott said during a news conference at Robb Elementary School, where a gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers on Tuesday. …

Texans, you can do better than this lousy lying hack. You deserve better. Se merecen algo mejor que Abbott, tejanos.

Take it all down and start over. Rethink public safety from the ground up because it’s not working and it only gives the worst kinds opportunities to grift — like Abbott’s fundraising.

~ ~ ~

Even more frustrating than the endless stream of pablum offered by stupid gits like Ted Cruz, or rebellious threats against the president like Florida’s state house rep Randy Fine is the inability to connect dots.

The mass murder by an AR-15 carrying teen and previous mass shootings have been encouraged by the GOP because they are bought and owned by the gun manufacturers’ lobby, the NRA. The NRA doesn’t give a shit about Americans; it only cares that there is a sustained market for its products. It only cares that a minority of Americans are rabid enough about gun rights to act as enforcers for the lobby’s demands.

The lobby itself has been bought and owned by Russia following the 2010 Citizens United decision; a flood of Russian money laundered through the NRA bought GOP elected officials and candidates.

The Senate Finance Committee’s 2019 report based on an 18-month investigation said the NRA was a Russian ‘foreign asset’ before the 2016 election.

Considering who the NRA continues to support with campaign donations — like Senators Mitch McConnell (total $1,267,139 )and Rand Paul (total $104,456) whose state Kentucky has also been courted with Russian oligarch money — it’s likely still a foreign asset.

The NRA continues to buy the GOP; it remains pleased with the results of its lobbying because it hasn’t changed its mode of operation no matter how many mass shootings and deaths there have been.

[Screenshot, distribution of 2020 election cycle donations by NRA to major national political parties (FEC data via OpenSecrets)]

In short, Russia is conducting war on the US through its proxies the NRA and the GOP, ensuring weapons of mass destruction remain in the hands of people who are vulnerable to messaging encouraging violence — messaging which may arise from active measures over social media as a subset of Russia’s hybrid warfare..

The GOP need not worry about Putin escalating his assault on Ukraine into a nuclear war involving the US.

They’re already killing plenty of Americans using American weapons of mass destruction on American soil without a single drop of blood spattered on Putin’s doorstep.

Why would Putin waste a single warhead when the GOP will do all the dirty work for him, sitting on their hands and taking NRA money rather than do what has been proven effective (ban assault weapons) and what is popular (background checks on all gun buyers)?

~ ~ ~

A Twitter thread recap of Uvalde’s preventable disaster:

Do something. Fucking do something constructive to stop this madness, you book-burning child-killing hacks with the R after your name.

For Democrats who were elected to serve this nation, stop enabling both the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction here in our own backyards. Stop enabling lousy policing which clearly isn’t solving the problem of mass shootings in public spaces while it punches down on the public it’s supposed to serve.

For those of us who vote D, help people get IDs to vote, help them register, make sure every voter you know is educated about the ballot in your state/county/city/precinct, and get every voter to polls for the remaining primaries and the mid-term election in November. The life you save may be your own.

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UPDATE-1 — 11:00 P.M. 26-MAY-2022 —

I called it.

They had gear as well as training and they weren’t willing to use it because they might have been shot. It’s called dereliction of duty.

If they don’t want to police, then fucking defund the police. Use the budget to deal with the root causes like improved local mental health care and services for precarious residents.

GOP Denounces Barry Goldwater, John Tower, and Richard Nixon?

John Tower and Barry Goldwater, ca. 1963.

The Republican governors are all clutching their pearls over Biden’s announcement to use the power of the federal government to require many businesses across the country to ensure their employees are either vaccinated against COVID-19 or are regularly tested. The New York Times did a round-up of some their comments, many taken from either Twitter or Sunday morning talk shows. Here’s a taste . . .

Now, they [various GOP governors] are arguing that Mr. Biden’s plan is a big-government attack on states’ rights, private business and personal choice, and promise swift legal action to challenge it, setting up a high-stakes constitutional showdown over the president’s powers to curb the pandemic.

“@JoeBiden see you in court,” Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota wrote on Twitter. Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming said the new rule “has no place in America,” and said he had asked the state’s attorney general to be ready to take legal action.

In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton questioned President Biden’s authority to require vaccinations or weekly testing at private businesses with more than 100 workers.

“I don’t believe he has the authority to just dictate again from the presidency that every worker in America that works for a large company or a small company has to get a vaccine,” Mr. Paxton said, speaking on a radio show hosted by Steve Bannon, who served as a strategist for Donald J. Trump during part of his presidency. “That is outside the role of the president to dictate.”

[snip]

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas called the actions an “assault on private businesses” in a statement on Twitter. He said he issued an executive order protecting Texans’ right to choose whether or not they would be vaccinated. “Texas is already working to halt this power grab,” he wrote.

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona wrote on Twitter: “The Biden-Harris administration is hammering down on private businesses and individual freedoms in an unprecedented and dangerous way.” He questioned how many workers would be displaced, businesses fined, and children kept out of the classroom because of the mandates, and he vowed to push back.

*sigh*

Friends, let me introduce you to Public Law 91-596, initially signed into law on December 29, 1970 by Richard Nixon, and amended variously since then. Below are the first two sections of the law. Notice, please, the language I’ve highlighted with underlining (bold is from the original text):

An Act
To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health; and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the “Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.”

Footnote (1) See Historical notes at the end of this document for changes and amendments affecting the OSH Act since its passage in 1970 through January 1, 2004.

SEC. 2. Congressional Findings and Purpose
(a) The Congress finds that personal injuries and illnesses arising out of work situations impose a substantial burden upon, and are a hindrance to, interstate commerce in terms of lost production, wage loss, medical expenses, and disability compensation payments.

(b) The Congress declares it to be its purpose and policy, through the exercise of its powers to regulate commerce among the several States and with foreign nations and to provide for the general welfare, to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources

My, but the language of paragraph (a) sounds like Congress intended the US Department of Labor to regulate conditions that create or spread illnesses in the workplace, and paragraph (b) states pretty clearly where Congress claimed the authority for doing so is grounded in the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution.

Continuing on, the act spelled out some of the details of that “purpose and policy” with the following 13 sub-paragraphs (again, underlining is mine):

(1) by encouraging employers and employees in their efforts to reduce the number of occupational safety and health hazards at their places of employment, and to stimulate employers and employees to institute new and to perfect existing programs for providing safe and healthful working conditions;

(2) by providing that employers and employees have separate but dependent responsibilities and rights with respect to achieving safe and healthful working conditions;

(3) by authorizing the Secretary of Labor to set mandatory occupational safety and health standards applicable to businesses affecting interstate commerce, and by creating an Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission for carrying out adjudicatory functions under the Act;

(4) by building upon advances already made through employer and employee initiative for providing safe and healthful working conditions;

(5) by providing for research in the field of occupational safety and health, including the psychological factors involved, and by developing innovative methods, techniques, and approaches for dealing with occupational safety and health problems;

(6) by exploring ways to discover latent diseases, establishing causal connections between diseases and work in environmental conditions, and conducting other research relating to health problems, in recognition of the fact that occupational health standards present problems often different from those involved in occupational safety;

(7) by providing medical criteria which will assure insofar as practicable that no employee will suffer diminished health, functional capacity, or life expectancy as a result of his work experience;

(8) by providing for training programs to increase the number and competence of personnel engaged in the field of occupational safety and health; affecting the OSH Act since its passage in 1970 through January 1, 2004.

(9) by providing for the development and promulgation of occupational safety and health standards;

(10) by providing an effective enforcement program which shall include a prohibition against giving advance notice of any inspection and sanctions for any individual violating this prohibition;

(11) by encouraging the States to assume the fullest responsibility for the administration and enforcement of their occupational safety and health laws by providing grants to the States to assist in identifying their needs and responsibilities in the area of occupational safety and health, to develop plans in accordance with the provisions of this Act, to improve the administration and enforcement of State occupational safety and health laws, and to conduct experimental and demonstration projects in connection therewith;

(12) by providing for appropriate reporting procedures with respect to occupational safety and health which procedures will help achieve the objectives of this Act and accurately describe the nature of the occupational safety and health problem;

(13) by encouraging joint labor-management efforts to reduce injuries and disease arising out of employment.

And what kind of liberal cabal forced this clearly authoritarian legislation through Congress? I’m glad you asked.

The Senate vote was 83-3, with 14 not voting. Among the 83 were Barry Goldwater and John Tower — not exactly a liberal pair of folks. The only three senators to vote against this were James Eastland, Sam Ervin, and Strom Thurmond. Over in the House, the final vote was 310-58, with 65 not voting. Looking at the voting patterns of some of the state delegations, it’s plain to see that this was both bipartisan and widely accepted on their side of the building, too.

  • Kentucky (4D/3R) voted 7-0-0;
  • Wisconsin (5D/5R) voted 9-0-1;
  • Oklahoma (4D/2R) voted 5-0-1;
  • Florida (9D/3R) voted 6-4-2, with the 4 nays all Democrats and 2 who abstained both GOP;
  • Tennessee (5D/4R) voted 5-1-3 (the 3 included 2 Dems and 1 Republican);
  • Arkansas (4D/1R) voted 4-0-1 (the 1 was a D);
  • South Dakota’s (2R) voted 1-0-1;
  • Montana (2D) voted 2-0-0;
  • Wyoming’s sole GOP representative voted aye.

In other words, there were staunch conservatives who voted for this, along with plenty of non-conservatives. The bill that became Public Law 91-596 was seen by a wide majority of both the members of the House and Senate to be a good thing, and well within the powers of the Federal Government to undertake.

Go back to the text of the law above, and look at items 6 and 7. These both make clear that OSHA’s mission includes dealing with disease transmission in the workplace. Then skip down to 11, which says the Federal government should work with states, including providing grants for this work. You know, like providing a free vaccine to deal with disease transmission in the workplace.

OSHA has been around for more than 50 years, and no one has succeeded in challenging their the authority to regulate health conditions in the workplace under this act. There have been successful arguments overturning specific regulations, but the authority to regulate has not been overturned.

I’m not a governor or an attorney general, but I can read the plain text of the law. I can see the wide political range of legislators who voted to create OSHA, and given that OSHA is still here and going strong after 50 years, it’s clear that the ability of the federal government to regulate the workplace for safety and health has not been overturned or declared unconstitutional.

So if anyone reading happens to be in conversation with one of these pearl-clutching Republican leaders when they start in on their “This is unprecedented and un-American!” nonsense, ask them for a link.

Better yet, ask Governor Ducey why Goldwater voted for OSHA. Ask Governor Abbott and AG Paxton why John Tower voted for OSHA. Ask any of today’s so-called conservatives why a bunch of other conservatives voted with Goldwater and Tower to approve OSHA, and why a conservative like Richard Nixon signed it.

Productive Ways to Hold Trump Accountable

On Friday, Jonathan Rauch published a god-awful argument for pardoning Trump. Today, Quinta Jurecic published a much better argument that a Truth Commission would be the ideal way to hold Trump accountable, but because that probably won’t work, we need to pursue other alternatives, including prosecution.

I’ve already laid out one reason why I think we need to prosecute Trump for his role in the insurrection: because if we don’t, it’ll hamper the ability to hold dangerous people accountable. Another reason is that so many defendants are excusing their actions because the then-President ordered them to storm the Capitol (indeed, that’s one reason, according to a new WaPo report, why DOJ might not charge some of the insurrectionists), the government must make it clear that order was illegal.

Still, I think there are solutions to the problem that both Rauch and Jurecic want to resolve: how to find accountability without derailing President Biden’s Administration.

Jurecic acknowledges that Republican resistance to accountability measures will exacerbate current political divisions.

[A] post-Trump investigation pursued along partisan lines could be doomed from the start. This is the irony: The exact conditions that led to and sustained the Trump era—white grievance, a polluted media ecosystem, and political polarization—are the same conditions that will likely prevent a truth commission from succeeding.

[snip]

In the short run, any of these measures could risk making the country’s social and political divisions worse.

Rauch argues that prosecutions will derail the Biden Administration.

If we want Biden’s presidency to succeed, accountability to be restored and democracy to be strengthened, then a pardon would likely do more good than harm.

Consider, first, Biden’s presidency.

Biden has made clear in every way he can that he does not want or intend to be President Not Trump. He has his own agenda and has been impressively disciplined about not being defined by opposition to Trump. He knows Trump will try to monopolize the news and public discourse for the next four years, and he needs Trump instead to lose the oxygen of constant public attention.

Legal proceedings against Trump, or even the shadow of legal proceedings, would only keep Trump in the headlines.

Rauch also argues (fancifully, for precisely the reasons Jurecic gives that a Truth Commission would be undermined by polarization) that a non-criminal counterintelligence investigation will succeed in a way criminal investigations won’t.

It is important, then, that Trump’s presidency be subjected to a full-scale, post hoc counterintelligence scrub. There should be a public element, modeled on the 9/11 commission, and also a nonpublic, classified element. Both elements could be complicated and hindered by the criminal investigation of Trump. The criminal and counterterrorism investigations would need to be continually deconflicted; Congress would be asked to back away from inquiries and witnesses that step on prosecutors’ toes; Trump himself could plead the Fifth Amendment—an avenue not open to him were he to accept a pardon.

Ignoring for the moment the necessity of including Trump in an investigation into January 6, I agree that, to the extent possible, there needs to be some kind of accounting of what happened during the Trump Administration without turning it into partisan warfare.

Here are some ways to contribute to doing that.

Drain the swamp

Investigations into Trump for things that either are already (Russia or Ukraine) or can be (the election) turned into a tribal issue will absolutely exacerbate political division.

But there are some topics where former Trump supporters can quickly be shown how he hurt them.

For example, an inquiry into Trump’s trade war, especially into the harm done to farmers, will provide a way to show that Trump really devastated a lot of the rural voters who, for tribal reasons, nevertheless support him.

Or Trump’s grifting. In the wake of the Steve Bannon pardon, a number of Trump supporters were furious that Bannon was pardoned for cheating them, even while rioters or other more favored pardon candidates were not. Bannon’s not the only Trump grifter whose corruption demonstrably hurt Trump voters. There’s Brad Parscale’s grifting. There’s Jared Kushner’s favoritism in COVID contracting, which made the country less safe. There’s PPP abuse by big corporations at the expense of small businesses. None of this has to be explicitly about Trump; it can instead be an effort to crack down on corruption generally which by its very nature will affect Trump’s flunkies.

Have Trump dead-enders approve charges

With the exception of some egregious US Attorneys, Biden has asked the remaining US Attorneys to stay on for the moment. That defers any political blowback in the case of John Durham (who in addition to being CT US Attorney is also investigating the Russian investigation) and David Weiss (who is investigating Hunter Biden).

But it also allows people who are nominally Trump appointees to preside over at least the charging of existing investigations targeting Trump or his flunkies. The one place this is known to be true is in Southern District of New York (where Rudy is being investigated). It might be true in DC US Attorney’s office (though Billy Barr shut a lot of investigations, including into Roger Stone and Erik Prince, down). There’s Texas, where Ken Paxton is under investigation.There were hints of investigations into Jared in Eastern District of New York and, possibly, New Jersey.

If Trump US Attorneys aren’t replaced before they charge Trump or his allies, then the act of prosecution will be one approved by a Trump appointee.

Give Republicans what they think they want

Because they’re gullible, Republicans believe that the record of the Russian investigation shows corruption. What is in fact the case is that a cherry-picked and selectively-redacted set of records from the Russian investigation can be gaslit to claim corruption.

But since they’ve been clambering for Trump to declassify it all (even while both John Ratcliffe and Andrew McCabe have suggested that might not show what Republicans expect), it gives Biden’s Administration a way to declassify more. For example, there’s at least one Flynn-Kislyak transcript (from December 22, 2016) that Trump’s Administration chose not to release, one with closer Trump involvement then the others. There are materials on Alex Jones’ interactions with Guccifer 2.0. There are Peter Strzok notes showing him exhibiting no ill-will to Mike Flynn. There are records regarding Paul Manafort’s interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik on April 2016. That’s just the tip of an iceberg of very damning Russian-related records that Trump chose not to release, but which GOP demands for more can be used to justify.

Fully empower Inspectors General

One particularly absurd part of Rauch’s piece is his claim that we know all of Trump’s criminal exposure.

If he committed crimes that we don’t already know about, they are probably not of a new kind or magnitude.

As for what we do know about, it seems clear that he committed criminal obstruction of justice, for example by ordering his White House counsel to falsify federal records. But his obstruction was a process crime, already aired, of limited concern to the public and hard to get a conviction on as a stand-alone charge. There might be more to the Ukraine scandal than we know, but that matter, too, has been aired extensively, may not have been a legal violation and was appropriately (if disappointingly) handled by impeachment. Trump might have committed some form of sedition when he summoned his supporters to the streets to overturn the election, but he would have a colorable First Amendment defense, and sedition is a complicated and controversial charge that would open a legal can of worms. The real problem with Trump is not that we do not know his misdeeds but that we know so much about them, and yet he remained in office for a full term.

One piece of evidence Rauch is mistaken is his certainty that Trump’s only exposure in the Russian investigation is regarding obstruction, when (just as one example) there’s an ongoing investigation into an Assange pardon that appears to be closer to a quid pro quo; or the closed investigation into a potential bribe from Egypt. Democrats were denied a slew of documents pertaining to the Ukraine scandal, especially from the State Department. Democrats were similarly denied records on Trump’s abuse of clearance and non-official records.

One way to deal with the outstanding questions from the Trump Administration is simply to fully staff and empower the Inspectors General who have been undermined for four years. If, for example, State’s IG were to refer charges against Mike Pompeo or DOD’s IG were to refer charges pertaining to Kash Patel’s tenure, it wouldn’t be Democrats targeting them for investigation, it would be independent Inspectors General.

DOJ must be a key part of this. DOJ’s IG has already said it is investigating BJ Pak’s forced resignation. Democrats should insist this is expanded to review all of Barr’s politicized firings of US Attorneys.

As part of an effort to make sure Inspectors General do the work they should have done in real time, Biden should support the end of the OPR/IG split in DOJ, which means that the decisions of lawyers at DOJ (including those pertaining to the Ukraine scandal) are only reviewed by inspectors directly reporting to the Attorney General.

Respect FOIA

Joe Biden might not want to focus on Trump. But the press will continue to do so.

And if Biden orders agencies to treat FOIA like it is supposed to be treated, rather than forcing the press to sue if they want anything particularly interest, the press will do a lot of the accountability that courts otherwise might (and might provide reason for prosecutions). The press already has FOIAs in that have been undermined by improper exemption claims. For example, Jason Leopold has an existing FOIA into Bill Barr’s interference into the Roger Stone and Mike Flynn prosecutions. American Oversight has a FOIA into why Paul Manafort was sprung from jail when more vulnerable prisoners were not. FOIA into Trump’s separation policies have been key at reuniting families.

If such FOIAs obtained more visibility than they currently do, it would provide the visibility into some of the issues that people would love criminal investigations into.

One of the biggest scandals of the Trump Administration is how he undermined normal institutions of good governance, especially Inspectors General. If those institutions are restored and empowered, it will likely do a surprising amount of the accountability work that is so badly needed.