…dumber than belief [DOT 4/8/22]

much dumber than that...

…what’s the dumbest thing that’s happened in the last couple of days?

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has suggested that Social Security and Medicare be eliminated as federal entitlement programs, and that they should instead become programs approved by Congress on an annual basis as discretionary spending.
In an interview that aired Tuesday on “The Regular Joe Show” podcast, Johnson, who is seeking a third term in the Senate, lamented that the Social Security and Medicare programs automatically grant benefits to those who meet the qualifications — that is, to those who had been paying into the system over their working life.

…even by his standards this seems dumb…does he think he’s got a lot of young voters who don’t care about those programs…is he just a fucking idiot…inquiring minds want to know…but most of us I suspect would rather he STFU?

“If you qualify for the entitlement, you just get it no matter what the cost,” Johnson said. “And our problem in this country is that more than 70 percent of our federal budget, of our federal spending, is all mandatory spending. It’s on automatic pilot. It never — you just don’t do proper oversight. You don’t get in there and fix the programs going bankrupt. It’s just on automatic pilot.”

…the problem is we don’t get to maybe break absolutely everything so why don’t we start with the shit people depend on when they retire…not me…I’ll still get that medical coverage…& it turns out I’ve got money…but ideally there wouldn’t be anything you regular folks can rely on to survive a republican presidential term…after all, we already jerk those veterans about like nobody’s business

Johnson suggested that Social Security and Medicare be transformed into programs whose budgets are appropriated by Congress on an annual basis. He pointed out that budgets for the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments are approved as discretionary spending.
Earlier this year, Johnson announced that he would seek reelection in November, despite a previous pledge to retire after two terms. He is widely expected to win his primary election next Tuesday.
According to the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau, Wisconsin ranks 17th in the nation in the percentage of the population 65 and older.

This was not the first time Johnson has made news for a proposal that prompted even other Republicans to distance themselves. In March, Johnson said he wanted to see the GOP repeal the Affordable Care Act if his party won the White House and the House and Senate majorities in 2024, something Republicans failed to do the last time they had majorities in Washington.

…I guess it depends how you count the leverage part…even mitch isn’t much inclined to tell older voters he’s inclined to short them…whereas some dumb has a fat thumb on the scales

Senate Democrats are discussing whether to dial back some of their proposed taxes targeting wealthy investors and billion-dollar corporations, part of a new scramble to win the support of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and advance their broader economic agenda swiftly.
Publicly, Sinema has said nothing about the measure, and her aides maintain she is still reviewing it. Behind the scenes, though, the senator has spoken with Democrats about at least two of the proposal’s tax provisions, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive negotiations.

The first would tighten a policy that benefits hedge fund, private equity and real estate managers by taxing much of their compensation at a lower rate than most other earned income. The second sets a minimum tax on large, profitable companies that pay nothing to the U.S. government. On both, Sinema’s exact requests are unclear, though she previously expressed some openness to a minimum corporate tax. The people familiar with the talks cautioned that discussions are fluid.

…in her wisdom she seems to think that money isn’t called for

The two proposals — along with other cost-cutting and revenue-raising components of the bill — are expected to generate about $739 billion in new federal funds. The amount is enough to offset Democrats’ new spending on health care and climate, while still generating more than $300 billion that can pay down the deficit over the next decade. New data released Wednesday from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office affirmed those deficit reduction figures.
Republicans, meanwhile, vehemently oppose the bill. Many party lawmakers approached Sinema directly on the Senate floor late into Tuesday, before appearing Wednesday at a news conference to ratchet up their attacks.
Manchin, meanwhile, acknowledged that he and Sinema are “exchanging texts back and forth.” Only minutes before his news conference Tuesday, the two lawmakers spoke in the Senate, with Manchin kneeling beside Sinema as she presided over the chamber.

…throwing the baby out with the bathwater really shouldn’t be something you think is a good look if you mean to make a career of politics…not saying there isn’t a dismally plausible chance you’ll do fine at the getting elected part but you’re gonna entirely suck at the actual doing-the-fucking-job part

Democrats initially aimed to raise tax rates as part of their economic package, the ill-fated, approximately $2 trillion Build Back Better Act. But they ultimately faltered after Sinema opposed any change to individual and corporate tax levels. Once Democrats removed the proposals last fall, seemingly securing Sinema’s support, Manchin staked out his opposition to the bill and its price tag. It passed the House but never came to a vote in the Senate.

In rebooting Democrats’ economic agenda last week, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) worked out a new approach with Manchin. Rather than raise rates on all companies, the two men agreed to implement a 15 percent minimum tax that applies to corporations that pay nothing. This week, Democrats described the proposal as one of fairness, citing the fact that companies in “a lot of instances are paying a lower tax rate than firefighters and nurses,” as Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the leader of the Senate Finance Committee, put it Tuesday.
But Sinema in recent days has heard an earful from businesses, including from those in her own state. Danny Seiden, the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said a number of manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and other firms brought their concerns about the corporate minimum tax to the senator directly during a Zoom call Tuesday afternoon.
Republicans, meanwhile, also sought to ratchet up pressure on Sinema and her fellow Democrats. On Tuesday, GOP lawmakers signaled that they plan to force the issue on taxes once the bill comes to the floor, since reconciliation opens the door for them to offer unlimited amendments. A day later, they intensified their pressure campaign, highlighting to reporters what they described as the wide-ranging negative consequences of Democrats’ plans.

…funny how there always seems to be a common denominator to those negative consequences

Taking aim at the corporate minimum tax, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said the burden would fall on workers, who could “see their wages and benefits be reduced because of this taxation at a time when they’re having a really hard time keeping up with inflation.”

…award more money for education & we’ll just use other money for other stuff so it’s a net washout…but try to tax a clear profit & we’ll roll those costs right on down to the consumer…what do you mean both of those are “your” money?

You will be shocked to learn that the GOP’s passion for the economic interests of regular folks is less than sincere, and their description of this bill is not quite accurate. Only a bill aimed at the bank accounts of the wealthy and corporations could produce this kind of angry Republican opposition, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.

The Democratic bill contains three key tax provisions. The first narrows the carried interest loophole, which enables hedge fund managers to pay the (lower) capital gains tax rate on the money they make, rather than (higher) ordinary income tax rate. There is no plausible way for any lawmaker to defend this loophole other than saying, “I enjoy collecting large checks from hedge fund managers at their palatial Hamptons estates,” which no one would say out loud.

So instead, they focus on the other two main proposals, especially the attempt to address the fact that corporations find so many ways to avoid paying taxes even when they are making huge profits.

Some time ago, people began to notice that companies would tell Wall Street they were hugely profitable while somehow managing to convince the IRS they should owe little or nothing in taxes. So the bill creates a “book income tax” requiring corporations making more than $1 billion a year in profits to pay at least 15 percent in taxes on profits they report to investors (the corporate tax rate is 21 percent).

This is where things get a little wonky. Republicans requested an analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation of this proposal, knowing that the JCT assesses any corporate tax increase with a formula that allocates 25 percent of the increase to labor and 75 percent to capital.

Economists debate whether that’s the proper way to think about it, but it rests on the assumption that if you tax a corporation on its profits, that’s equivalent to taxing both its workers and shareholders. Will making Nike or Archer Daniels Midland pay taxes mean they’ll cut the pay of middle-class employees eventually, or that the dividends they pay their shareholders will be a little smaller?
Republicans would [call that a “middle-class tax increase,”]. They’re waving around the JCT analysis as proof — and much of the media is echoing their claim.

…& in case you didn’t think there was another shoe to drop

That brings us to the last major tax provision: a significant boost to funding for the Internal Revenue Service, to allow the agency to rebuild so it can collect the taxes people actually owe.

Republicans have long waged a budgetary war on the IRS, resulting in drastically reduced funding and staffing. Predictably, the agency is struggling to goafter tax cheats, particularly wealthy ones able to hire lawyers and accountants to fight against any effort to make them pay their fair share.

As a ProPublica investigation found, the “campaign to slash the agency’s budget has left it understaffed, hamstrung and operating with archaic equipment. The result: billions less to fund the government.” For all intents and purposes, the GOP’s motto on taxes is “Defund the Police.”
And now, the prospect that the IRS might actually be able to do its job, particularly when it comes to making the wealthy pay what they owe, has conservatives in a tizzy. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, the media’s most zealous advocate for the interests of the put-upon plutocracy, moaned that with this new funding the IRS will go into “Beast Mode,” unleashing a wave of oppression on the American middle class.

…sure…it’s a whole other kind of dumb…& maybe even a different class…but for sheer head-up-ass-ery…it’s got to be giving johnson a run for his money…although…it’s been clear for a while that he’s not shy of company

So this is a little embarrassing, but we may have gotten so carried away trying to pass abortion restrictions that we sort of forgot women could still vote! A mind-fart, for sure! When you are sitting there legislating about someone as though they are not there at all — a someone with no rights the state is bound to respect, neither to control what occurs within the bounds of their own body nor, necessarily, to life, even — you can be forgiven for thinking, “Well, this cannot possibly apply to a large swath of the voting population! This isn’t the kind of law you pass about fellow voters! They would say something, probably!”

And, well, they did! Yes, it turns out that women can still vote. Oops! Our bad! Actually, so can everyone else this law would affect, both the pregnant people whose bodies it would presume to control and those who just don’t want that kind of thing happening to their fellow citizens in general! And none of them are pleased! Yikes! They turned out in droves and voted against rolling back the Kansas constitution’s protections for abortion by a pretty overwhelming margin — more than 58 percent voting to preserve them!

…I mean…I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up unduly…because it’s not like these people aren’t also in the business of not having to listen to the people who don’t agree with them

It really gives you pause: Can you actually force significant life choices down fellow voters’ throats, as though they are not your peers under law? And have it be a successful strategy?

[…] don’t worry. We are chastened, and we won’t repeat this error: We are working very hard on tightening the voting process. Soon, only the ballots we believe in are going to count.

Yes, we did our best to make the messaging as confusing as we could, and, sure, we’ve been working to make it harder to register to vote, but we can always do better. No, not at realizing that this isn’t a winning approach and we should stop trying to take our fellow citizens’ rights away. Certainly not at treating those affected by abortion restrictions as people whose rights deserve respect. But just at fixing this voting oversight.

It seems too clear. People with the ability to choose won’t choose us, so there’s only one solution to securing less choice: less choice.

…I dunno…is it still satire when it’s also just a description of the actual train of thought of walking caricatures that hold national office…or is that a dumb question?

Christian nationalism might be a term you know well, or maybe it wasn’t really something you thought about until the Dobbs decision came down from the Supreme Court. But either way, it seems like it’s everywhere, especially in a specific subset of Republican politics, and it’s not subtle. Just ask Marjorie Taylor Greene.
But just how big of a problem is Christian nationalism in our politics? And as church and state get closer together, is there a better way for them to exist side by side? My guests this week are contributing opinion writer Esau McCaulley, who is theologian-in-residence Baptist Church in Chicago, and the author of “Reading While Black: African-American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope.”
And Katherine Stewart — she’s the author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism,” and she’s been reporting on the rise of the Christian right for over a decade.
Well, the big thing that we’ve seen change, I think, is there was a coup attempt — a real test about whether people would pick party or country. There was a real choice between the agenda of Christian nationalism or — some people call it the Christian right, other — you know, people use different terms to refer to this movement, which is an organized quest for political power. And the leaders of the movement have made their choice absolutely clear. They said that their agenda is more important than the protection of our democracy.
I want to say that nothing has shifted, and I want to say this from a particular perspective. There is a way of looking at what we’re now calling Christian nationalism, or the use of Christianity as a cloak for the acquisition of power and the exploitation of the poor — as the perpetual enemy of the Black church and Black Christianity. So if you go back and you look at something like the Abolitionist movement, you know, that was led by many of the historically Black churches. And there was a group of Christians who were saying, no, no, no. God wants people to be enslaved and we should be in power.

Right, the Cornerstone Speech —


The idea that like actually, the Bible loves slavery and it’s totally awesome.
Katherine, you mentioned that you see authoritarianism as the end game here. But I’m interested in what that actually means. So we’ve talked about — we think about Marjorie Taylor Greene, who says that she’s a Christian. But if you were to know her by her works, you would not really say that she was practicing Christianity in her daily life — though you know, I don’t know her heart. But when we talk about authoritarianism under a Christian nationalist regime, I think some people are thinking like, Gilead from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Realistically I don’t think we’re going to get nearly that far. But is that what you’re worried about?

Yeah, you’re absolutely right. We’re not going to get “The Handmaid’s Tale” here. I think what we risk is more of an authoritarian kleptocracy that stays in power by feeding disinformation and propaganda to a large number of Americans while convincing them that they’re doing God’s work.

And we’re not just talking about people who happen to be Christian and happen to be patriotic. I mean, that’s not what this is about at all. I think we can look at whether the advocacy of Christian nationalists or members of the religious right fits within a certain pattern of authoritarian politics.

So I mean, here are some different features of that pattern.

Number one — do they view the opposition as fundamentally illegitimate? Here we were talking about the myths of the stolen election. And I think that Christian nationalists’ consistent support for Trump’s coup attempt shows us where they stand on that issue. Absolutely they regard any election that doesn’t go their way is illegitimate.

Another aspect is, do they feel against all reasonable evidence — do they say that we’re the most persecuted group in society, and thus that their very survival is at stake?

And this is another thing that they do. It’s how a lot of Christian nationalist leaders consolidate the rank and file. It’s how they consolidate their base by stoking that persecution narrative.

And we can look at the facts. They are overrepresented in the courts. They’re frankly overrepresented in power and in our politics. This is a movement that for many years, the Republican Party thought they could make use of, and they’ve kind of seized control of the Republican Party. And yet they consistently maintain that they’re being censored and persecuted.
The difference is that the religious left, as it were — sort of, I would say moderate liberal left — is not the equivalent of the religious right. Because the religious right is really a very organized political movement — extremely well funded. They’ve been investing in all the features of modern political campaigns for decades. And they work by turning out the rank and file to vote — their rank and file to vote in disproportionate numbers. Whereas on the religious left, it’s more frankly about values and messaging. So —
And I want to be clear here that when I’m thinking about the left and Democrats, those are not the same thing, as anyone who is involved with either will tell you. But it seems as if Democrats are moving away from talking about religion and politics or talking about Christianity. And I’m worried that that leaves a vacuum to be filled in which the people who are permitted to be people of faith are, you know, people who are of the faith of the right.

That’s interesting you say that, because I speak constantly to Christians and other religious folk who are deeply concerned about the direction of our country. But they don’t tend to be — the organizations don’t tend to be quite so candidate focused. They’re definitely not handing out the kind of voter guides or videos that can be aired at churches and other houses of worship that the religious right is doing, because they respect their 501(c)(3) status. They respect the religious diversity of our country. And they really take this idea very, very seriously that religion and politics thrive best when there is some kind of separation between the two.

[…] But if you look at three or four of the key cities that swung the 2020 election, they were swung by Black cities and regions and most of those voters were probably church attenders.

And so you can say that many elections — at least the last two elections as relates to the Black turnout — a lot of that Black turnout has been people of faith.

And so I do believe that the Black church understands that often, it is our freedom — along with the freedoms of others — that is at stake in elections. And so I think that the Black voting bloc that is largely Christian is organized and aware, even if it doesn’t receive the same coverage. And so I do believe that that is an underreported aspect of the wider religious world — that we often put into the binary between the religious right and the religious left without understanding the messy middle that the Black church often inhabits.
So when 2016 happens and you begin to see the rise of what we now call Christian nationalists and the Trump supporters, I said, oh, maybe people just don’t know about these stories in the Bible about the poor and the sick and the needy. I’ll just show, here’s how Christianity — and the way that Christianity was consistently redefined to support whatever was going on, it was completely detached from a theological conversation. It was a matter of power.

It was a matter of, what’s going to get us the most power. And I was shocked by how little theological engagement actually took place around the 2016 and the 2020 elections as it relates to the relationship between Christianity, voting power and democracy. No one does that. They just de-Christianize the opponents.

…because who’s wagging this dog?

One of the speakers [at the National Pro-life Summit in January] was discussing how they primary Republicans — even Republicans who declare themselves to be anti-abortion. It was Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America — one of the very leading anti-abortion organizations. And she said, we’ve got these Republican politicians who call themselves pro-life but they won’t endorse — I’m paraphrasing here. She said, they won’t endorse the extreme positions that we want them to endorse. And we will primary them.

And it provides a kind of explanation for why the Republican Party has gone so far off to the right, and why some of these culture war policies have gone so far off to the right. Because thanks to gerrymandering, a lot of Republicans at the state level earn safe seats. They’re never going to run against a Democrat. And the only way they can lose is if somebody runs to the right of them.

So they all try and conform to this movement’s agenda. I mean, if anybody thinks that they’re going to stop with overturning Roe versus Wade, well, they’re not. They say they’re not. They say the goal is actually to introduce a constitutional amendment banning abortion nationwide.

I heard that not only from Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins, but also from a representative of the Alliance Defending Freedom — one of the key legal advocacy groups of the religious right. They’ve always been very clear about wanting to end the right to same-sex marriage. It’s not that they’re hiding. It’s that we’re not listening.
Well, I think a lot of people are really concerned that Christian nationalism is damaging to both faith and the nation, and people are trying to grapple with that. And I think the political damage is in some ways easier to see. Because by locking in a base of voters around a set of non-negotiable positions, some of which have frankly little basis in fact, they’re effectively exploiting conservative Christians and using them to advance the movement’s larger agenda — it’s sort of many agendas unchecked. I think this kind of hostage taking licenses the political corruption of leaders.

But I think the damage to religion is frankly harder to see and doesn’t get enough attention. Because this kind of politicized religion is incredibly binary. It demonizes political opponents. And at the conferences I’ve attended, I’ve heard Democrats described as demonic, satanic, like not even as people.
And I also think that there are ways in which people are — I think that people feel as if their beliefs get wielded against them as a cudgel.

Yes. And so what I want to say is that when we sometimes think about the good that religion can do, we tend to have this idea that a religion is good if it says all the things we want it to say.
And the truth is, if you let Christians speak, they will sometimes surprise you. And they will have clusters of ideas and beliefs and values that don’t completely fit in either the political binaries. And I think that the call for nuance is sometimes heard as a call for normalizing oppression. One of the things about the Civil Rights movement that I really love — is it was actually religiously diverse. It was Catholics, Baptists, Jews, atheists. And King did not expect ideological conformity on every issue. He, him and others — and I want to speak especially to the women whose role in the Civil Rights movement is often neglected — the idea was, if you are in line with this part, we can work together here.
I want to go to something that you said also about expressing your faith in the public square. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with having religious views and then advocating for your policies. That’s absolutely fine.

But that’s sort of not really what we’re dealing today. The fact is, what we’re dealing with is — it becomes a way of misframing the issue at hand. And I think that question is often asked by folks who are trying to conflate in the minds of the public, their religion with what it means to be a true American.

So rather than say, you can have all kinds of opinions on the issue — and the specific issue of abortion — and not be a Christian nationalist. But if you were allowing that one single issue to control your vote, you are actually lending support to a Christian nationalist agenda.

…&…well…that sure sounds like a dumb sort of a thing to do

Like for example in 2016 — George Barna, he’s an evangelical pollster. And he did some of the math and he said he identified this cohort — the most devoted religious right supporters. He called them, Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservatives — only 10 percent of the population, but 91 percent voted in 2016, 93 percent voted for Donald Trump.

Now when you have a country of, 40 percent to 50 percent of people don’t bother to vote at all, and an additional number have their votes essentially stolen from them through race-based gerrymandering, voter suppression, et cetera, you don’t need a majority to win elections. All you need is a disproportionately organized minority.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/03/opinion/republicans-religious-right-the-argument.html [transcript]

…apparently one dumb enough to think this asshole still sounds like he’s hawking something they’d be happy to buy

As he contemplates a third straight run for the presidency, Donald Trump has a multimillion-dollar political machine and a network of tax-exempt advocacy groups at his disposal. He also has a plan. The plan is to wrest control of the federal government from what he sees as a policy apparatus dominated by “radical left-wing Democrats.”

To drain the swamp and root out the deep state, we need to make it much easier to fire rogue bureaucrats who are deliberately undermining democracy, or at a minimum just want to keep their jobs. They want to hold on to their jobs. Congress should pass historic reforms, empowering the president to ensure that any bureaucrat who is corrupt, incompetent or unnecessary for the job can be told — did you ever hear this? — “You’re fired? Get out. You’re fired.”

In the same speech, Trump announced his intention to enact legislation granting the president authority to send in the National Guard in the case of violent protests by Black Lives Matter or other groups:
Trump declared that he would remove “the homeless, the drug addicted and the dangerously deranged” from city streets and place them in “thousands and thousands of high-quality tents” on “large parcels of inexpensive land in the outer reaches of the cities.”

“Now, some people say, ‘Oh, that’s so horrible,’” Trump added. “No. What’s horrible is what’s happening now. Because now they’re in tents but most of them aren’t even tents that function.”
Theda Skocpol, a political scientist and sociologist at Harvard, emailed her reply to my query about Trump, 2024 — and 2025. Like many others, she is apprehensive:

Trump, in a second term, would bring in like-minded loyal and lawless authoritarians from the get-go, especially to run Justice, Homeland Security and Defense. From all he says, it is clear that exerting domination and using the government apparatus to reward loyalists and punish perceived opponents is his main thing now.

American institutions, Skocpol continued,

would not survive another Trump term, especially because of parallel reinforcing developments in a majority of states and in the federal courts. Discouragement and outright repression and popular threats of violence would push most centrists and liberals into full retreat. Minority rule would lock in.

The nation, Skocpol argued, “would enter a major new decades-long era of U.S. politics. We may already have done so, given the 6-3 SCOTUS majority devoted to eviscerating federal government power for many Democratic Party agenda priorities.”
The architects of one of the most radical of Trump’s proposals have described it as “the constitutional option.” It would provide for the wholesale politicization of the elite levels of the Civil Service through the creation of a new “Schedule F” classification, allowing the president to hire and fire at will thousands of government employees “in positions of a confidential, policy-determining, policymaking, or policy-advocating character.”
The broad outlines of the emerging Trump 2025 agenda are sketched in a recent two-part Axios series by Jonathan Swan, “A radical plan for Trump’s second term” and “Trump’s revenge”; in a number of stories by Erich Wagner at Government Executive, including “Trump Is Threatening the Return and Expansion of Schedule F” on March 14; and in Donald Moynihan’s article for The Public Administration Review, “Public Management for Populists: Trump’s Schedule F Executive Order and the Future of the Civil Service.”
Moynihan, a professor of public policy at Georgetown and an expert on the administrative state, emailed me to say that Trump’s “Schedule F represents the biggest threat not just to the Civil Service since inception, but to the underlying ideal of a merit-based public service.”

The category of Schedule F, Moynihan observed, “is defined so broadly such that anyone with a policy advisory role could be reclassified as a political appointee. Most civilian government work is now white-collar work, where it’s possible to argue that almost every job has some policy role.”

In 2020, the Trump administration asked agency heads for an estimate of the extent of the proposed Schedule F classification, Moynihan wrote, and “almost 9 out of 10 Office of Management and Budget officials were proposed for Schedule F reclassification.” The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to give a second example, estimated that 74 percent of its employees would be subject to Schedule F reclassification.
To better understand the dangers posed by ending Civil Service protections and merit requirements, [Max] Stier [founding president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service] suggested envisaging the country under a Trump administration, or a president with a similar program, in which the “I.R.S. agents, the F.B.I. agents and prosecutors were all there on the basis of their loyalty to the president.”

Stier pointed out that the federal government

already has an extraordinary number of political appointees — 4,000 of them — that every president gets to make. No other democracy has anything remotely close to that number, and our government would be much, much more effective with fewer of them and not lose out on accountability. The last thing we need is an even larger cadre of patronage appointments, which is what in effect Schedule F would do.

…&…batshit though it undeniably is…despite this part

Trump is facing historic legal and legislative scrutiny for a former president, under investigation by U.S. lawmakers, local district attorneys, a state attorney general and the Justice Department. Authorities are looking into Trump and his family business for a medley of possible wrongdoing, including his actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and how he valued his various assets for loan and tax purposes.

…there’s still this part

At the same time, it would be a fundamental mistake to underestimate Trump’s prospects. In a Wall Street Journal column last week, Karl Rove described the amount of money awaiting Trump should he decide to run for a second term:

The former president controls four political-action committees — Save America; Make America Great Again, Again! Inc.; Trump Make America Great Again PAC; and Make America Great Again Action. The PACs’ cash on hand as of June 30 came, respectively, to $103.1 million, $10.3 million, $7.3 million and $700,000, giving Mr. Trump more than $121 million at his disposal.

…& you’ll never guess how strong the strings that come with those PACs are

Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of Democracy 21, a campaign-finance reform advocacy group, wrote in an email responding to my inquiry that Trump cannot directly transfer this money into a Trump for President 2024 committee:

But he can arrange the money in a way that the money will be spent only on his campaign. Trump can consolidate all his PAC funds into one super PAC, which is informally known as a single-candidate super PAC. The super PAC must make expenditures “independent” of the candidate it supports and it makes all of its campaign expenditures to support one candidate, in this case Trump. But everyone gets around the “independence” requirement by having close political associates control the single-candidate super PAC. It’s a wink and a nod situation.

In addition to the political action committees cited above, the network of fund-raising organizations and tax-exempt advocacy groups at Trump’s disposal include the America First Policy Institute, The Conservative Partnership Institute, America First Legal, American Moment, the Center for Renewing America and the Claremont Institute, Save America JFC joint fund-raising committee, Save America leadership PAC, Trump Victory, and Make America Great Again Policies Inc.

…policies, inc.? …I…well…you probably can figure out approximately what I might think about that

Tracking the flow of money to and from these organizations is exceptionally difficult because the organizations continuously transfer money among themselves. For example, in the 2019-20 election cycle, America First Action, a super PAC, reported contributions of just over $20 million from America First Policies, Inc., a nonprofit charitable organization categorized as a 501(c)(4) under I.R.S. rules, according to the Federal Election Commission. During the same period, America First Action gave America First Policies $2.04 million to cover the cost of “in-kind payroll/offices expenses.”

Trump has a vast array of 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofit tax-exempt advocacy groups that serve several purposes. They perform what Peter Singer, a senior fellow at New America, describes as a “shadow government” function, “filled with people who either have been or want to be in government — or both,” a way station for prospective political appointees. These advocacy groups, Singer continued, can “set a political party’s agenda,” giving a 2025 Trump administration a “jump-start.”
Skocpol, in her email, emphasized the idea that with or without Trump, “the Trumpism takeover of the G.O.P. is real and likely to persist.”

To prove her point, she cited DeSantis:

He has obvious caudillo-like proclivities and would certainly do similar things to gut the federal Civil Service and turn security agencies into praetorian guards and election manipulators. He already has in Florida. I am not sure he would have as much capacity to cow the G.O.P. as a whole as Trump has proved to have, so his presidency might be more turbulent, and he might have a harder time assembling an authoritarian gang. However, the Steve Bannon-type networks will join him, and they have plans ready to go.

Trump has catalyzed racism and racial resentment, misogyny, white status decline, identity threat, economic anxiety, hatred of liberal elites and rage at globalization. Now this incendiary mix is at hand for any willing politician to capitalize on. There is no shortage of takers. But Trump is not just going to walk away and let other candidates stir his toxic political brew.

…stirring the pot…well…it might not necessarily be a terrible idea

Ms. Pelosi met with Taiwanese lawmakers and then with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, offering full-throated assurances of U.S. support for the island democracy that China claims as its own. In the whirlwind day of events, she was welcomed by crowds of supporters waving banners and followed by media and protesters, her closely tracked meetings and movements streamed partially online.

In her wake, she set the stage for new brinkmanship between China and the United States over power and influence in Asia. Taiwan is now bracing for Beijing to begin live-fire military drills on Thursday — an escalation without recent historical precedent — that could encircle the island and drop missiles into seas only 10 miles from its coast.
The meetings, though light on substance, were widely welcomed in Taiwan as a symbolic victory. Ms. Pelosi’s trip was a rare moment when a major foreign power publicly showed support for the island in the face of vehement opposition from China. Ms. Pelosi made the trip despite discouragement from President Biden, and was the highest-ranking member of the United States government to visit the island in 25 years.
Mr. Xi has made unifying Taiwan with China a primary goal of his rule, and his defense minister warned in June that Beijing would not hesitate to fight for the island. The Chinese government filed a formal protest with the U.S. State Department over Ms. Pelosi’s visit.
The trip took place against the backdrop of increasingly heated warnings from Beijing. Along with the military drills, a series of hacks hit Taiwan government websites. China used its status as Taiwan’s largest trading partner to lash out, announcing new trade curbs on Wednesday, including suspensions on imports of some fruit and fish and a ban on exports of sand, a key building material.
China’s live-fire drills in the strait would mark a direct challenge to what Taiwan defines as its coastline and territorial waters. Coordinates for the drills indicated they could take place closer than previous tests during a standoff 26 years ago.

China’s military warned all boats and airplanes to avoid the areas it identified for 72 hours. Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said the drills amounted to a blockade. Set to take place in six areas around Taiwan, the drills could temporarily cut access to some commercial shipping lanes and Taiwanese ports.
For Taiwan, and the United States military, a key question will be whether they obey Beijing’s orders to avoid the zones or test China’s resolve by sending boats and planes into them. Analysts are worried an accidental encounter in the fast-moving situation could spiral out of control.

The standoff is reminiscent of an incident in 1995 and 1996 called the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. During that crisis, China fired live ammunition and missiles into the waters around Taiwan to signal its anger over a trip by President Lee Teng-hui to the United States and to raise pressure ahead of a presidential election. The United States, in response, sent two aircraft carrier groups to the area.

Much has changed since then. China’s military is more powerful and more emboldened under Xi Jinping. This summer, Chinese officials strongly asserted that no part of the Taiwan Strait could be considered international waters, meaning they might move to intercept and block U.S. warships sailing through the area, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
The speaker went to Taiwan’s National Human Rights Museum, where she met with a group of activists and civil society leaders China views as a rogues’ gallery. They included a former Tiananmen protest student leader, a former political prisoner in China, a Tibetan activist and a Hong Kong bookseller.

Kalsang Gyaltsen, the Tibetan activist, said those at the meeting had told Ms. Pelosi of China’s deteriorating human rights situation and received support. “Discussing human rights in Taiwan is the biggest slap to a country like China that lacks human rights,” he said.

The visit, and the global attention it received, he said, made clear the failure of China’s acerbic, attention-seeking diplomats, who have in recent years taken to social media en masse to echo Chinese government propaganda points.

…but flirting with the zombie apocalypse?

The pigs had been lying dead in the lab for an hour — no blood was circulating in their bodies, their hearts were still, their brain waves flat. Then a group of Yale scientists pumped a custom-made solution into the dead pigs’ bodies with a device similar to a heart-lung machine.

What happened next adds questions to what science considers the wall between life and death. Although the pigs were not considered conscious in any way, their seemingly dead cells revived. Their hearts began to beat as the solution, which the scientists called OrganEx, circulated in veins and arteries. Cells in their organs, including the heart, liver, kidneys and brain, were functioning again, and the animals never got stiff like a typical dead pig.
The group reported its results Wednesday in Nature.

The researchers say their goals are to one day increase the supply of human organs for transplant by allowing doctors to obtain viable organs long after death. And, they say, they hope their technology might also be used to prevent severe damage to hearts after a devastating heart attack or brains after a major stroke.

But the findings are just a first step, said Stephen Latham, a bioethicist at Yale University who worked closely with the group. The technology, he emphasized, is “very far away from use in humans.”
The work began a few years ago when the group did a similar experiment with brains from dead pigs from a slaughterhouse. Four hours after the pigs died, the group infused a solution similar to OrganEx that they called BrainEx and saw that brain cells that should be dead could be revived.
When they treated the dead pigs, the investigators took precautions to make sure the animals did not suffer. The pigs were anesthetized before they were killed by stopping their hearts, and the deep anesthesia continued throughout the experiment. In addition, the nerve blockers in the OrganEx solution stop nerves from firing in order to ensure the brain was not active. The researchers also chilled the animals to slow chemical reactions. Individual brain cells were alive, but there was no indication of any organized global nerve activity in the brain.
The other comment was by Brendan Parent, a lawyer and ethicist who is director of transplant ethics and policy research at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine.
“By the accepted medical and legal definition of death, these pigs were dead,” Mr. Parent said. But, he added, “a critical question is: What function and what kind of function would change things?”

Would the pigs still be dead if the group did not use nerve blockers in its solution and their brains functioned again? That would create ethical problems if the goal was to preserve organs for transplant and the pigs regained some degree of consciousness during the process.

But restoring brain functions could be the goal if the patient had had a severe stroke or was a drowning victim.

“If we are going to get this technology to a point where it can help people, we will have to see what happens in the brain without nerve blockers,” Mr. Parent said.
Another issue is the implications OrganEx might have for the definition of death.

If OrganEx continues to show that the length of time after blood and oxygen deprivation before which cells cannot recover is much longer than previously thought, then there has to be a change in the time when it is determined that a person is dead.

“It’s weird but no different than what we went through with the development of the ventilator,” Mr. Parent said.

“There is a whole population of people who in a different era might have been called dead,” he said.

…& if not-as-dead-as-all-that isn’t your cup of tea…how about never-really-alive?

Scientists at the Weizmann Institute in Israel found that stem cells from mice could be made to self-assemble into early embryo-like structures with an intestinal tract, the beginnings of a brain, and a beating heart.

Known as synthetic embryos because they are created without fertilised eggs, the living structures are expected, in the near term, to drive deeper understanding of how organs and tissues form during the development of natural embryos.

But researchers believe the work could also reduce animal experimentation and ultimately pave the way for new sources of cells and tissues for human transplantation. For example, skin cells from a leukaemia patient could potentially be transformed into bone marrow stem cells to treat their condition.

“Remarkably, we show that embryonic stem cells generate whole synthetic embryos, meaning this includes the placenta and yolk sac surrounding the embryo,” said Prof Jacob Hanna, who led the effort. “We are truly excited about this work and its implications.” The work is published in Cell.
Hanna said synthetic embryos were not “real” embryos and did not have the potential to develop into live animals, or at least they hadn’t when they had been transplanted into the wombs of female mice. He has founded a company called Renewal Bio that aims to grow human synthetic embryos to provide tissues and cells for medical conditions.

…here’s the thing, though…there might be someone out there with worse legal representation than the twice impeached loser of the last presidential election

In a brutal cross-examination on Wednesday in the trial of the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a lawyer for Sandy Hook parents produced text messages from Mr. Jones’s cellphone showing that he had withheld key evidence in defamation lawsuits brought by the families for lies he had spread about the 2012 school shooting.

The messages were apparently sent in error to the families’ lawyers by Mr. Jones’s legal team.

“Mr. Jones, did you know that 12 days ago, your attorneys messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cellphone with every text message you’ve sent for the past two years?” the parents’ lawyer, Mark Bankston, asked Mr. Jones.
The file with Mr. Jones’s texts is part of a raft of material related to the Sandy Hook cases mistakenly delivered to the families’ lawyers. Mr. Bankston estimated that the files relayed to him in apparent error by Mr. Jones’s lawyers contained several hundred gigabytes of material.

Mr. Bankston, who is representing the Sandy Hook parents Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin at the trial, also revealed new evidence of Mr. Jones’s failure to produce court-ordered documents related to lies he spread about the mass shooting and its victims. Visibly uncomfortable for most of the 40-minute cross-examination, sweat running into his eyes and down his neck, Mr. Jones said he “100 percent” believed that the shooting occurred.

Mr. Bankston also presented financial records that contradicted Mr. Jones’s claim under oath on Tuesday that he was bankrupt, and clips from his broadcasts maligning the judge and jury in the case.

Mr. Jones lost four defamation cases last year that were filed against him by the families of 10 victims of the shooting, which killed 20 first graders and six educators.

Mr. Jones lost those cases by default, after nearly four years of litigation in which he failed to produce documents and testimony ordered by courts in Texas and Connecticut. That set in motion three trials for damages; the one in Austin this week is the first.
He also repeatedly tried to claim that his right to free speech protected him. But by defaulting in the defamation cases because he failed to comply with discovery by withholding documents and testimony, he lost the opportunity to test that claim at trial. The current trial and the two upcoming trials are only to decide the amount he must pay the families in damages.

…apparently the guy told them they fucked up & they didn’t do shit about it for the best part of a fortnight…so he quite reasonably decided that shit was his to draw on

…that bit of lawyering right there…I’m gonna go ahead & guess that’s the dumbest shit currently available…although…unlike a lot of the other dumb shit I’m seeing…I feel pretty good about that one?

[…tunes will follow at some point…hopefully…more coffee is an absolute certainty, though…& currently my priority, I’m afraid]



  1. Sorry for those that don’t like seeing Alex Jones first thing in the morning, but this pic captures that moment when Alex Jones realized he just got run over by Karma.

    Mere seconds after the plaintiffs’ lawyer mentioned he received a clone of all his phone info.

    Just to add more fuel to the well deserved fire, it seems the Jan 6 Investigative committee would like to see that info.

    • …that is a look that says “I thought I’d seen all the kinds of stupid there are but…really…are my fucking lawyers that fucking dumb…for real?”

      …&…in the parlance of our times…I am here for it

      …I may even take up eating popcorn

    • His ex wife wants to use it to reexamine what went down in her settlements too.

      Jones was in the thick of the Capitol attack and the maneuvers by the goons that day. Although I have a lot of doubts that he was using this phone as all of that was going on, this could still provide a lot of evidence on a lot of people, both in the 1/6 scheme in general and other schemes.

      Who knows where this leads, but it provides the kind of day dreaming opportunities of a Powerball ticket with a better chance of a payoff. Who’s there? Ginni Thomas? Hannity? Carlson? Mark Meadows?

  2. Superior morning song selection, thank you.

    Scary, scary words: “It seems too clear. People with the ability to choose won’t choose us, so there’s only one solution to securing less choice: less choice.”

    • …sad to say I think the lady in the discussion about christianity & politics might have summed it up with the thing about it not being that they aren’t saying what they’re about so much as it seems like we’re at least pretending we can’t hear it

      …at least in the sense that there isn’t an obvious candidate for the role of check or balance against that…& heartening as it might be that kansas could muster that many votes for up-with-this-we-shall-not-put…so-much-less-awful-than-the-only-alternative is just a crappy pitch to rally anyone around…but if ever there were a time to embrace mediocrity it might just be in the hopes of somehow bucking the odds to deny the GOP control of either house in the mid-terms?

  3. That Ron Johnson proposal may actually be the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in politics, and that includes Josh Hawley (the sole vote against Finland and Sweden joining NATO), Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor-Greene.

    The only reliable voting block Republicans have is gullible old people. And christo-fascists, but I digress. This appalling imbecile wants to threaten the two programs that affect that group directly, jeopardizing programs they both depend on and paid into for decades? This is literally unbelievably stupid, to the point where I’m looking for a scam. The only thing I can think of is that would enable Republicans to threaten and blackmail their voters every year. Maybe that’s it.

    It’s like Johnson said, well, the abortion issue is kicking our asses, so let’s throw something even dumber out there to take the heat off?

    I mean, this makes that idiotic screed Rick Scott published look like the Magna Carta.

  4. So, seriously, –can someone explain why alex Jones and his lawyer are not in jail right now?

    Withholding evidence and lying on the stand would seem to be jail-able offenses to me.

    • …can’t explain it as such…but I think jailing him for perjury requires another set of proceedings…& giving him all the rope in this one makes any appeal harder…& he’s got two more of these just-about-damages cases coming his way so I’ve been curious to know whether this stuff gets to be available for those, too?

      • The attorneys sure seem to have shored up an incompetence defense, haven’t they?

        But more seriously, I don’t think anybody would have believed they’d actually get legal access until a couple of days ago, and now it’s like opening the seal on a pharoah’s tomb. There’s potentially so much stuff in there you have to hold yourself from rushing in and accidentally ruining what you can learn.

    • I’m just guessing, but I suspect there’s going to have to be some serious review first of how the idiot Jones attorneys screwed this up and so on. My first thought when I saw it was that some staffer who actually has a soul sent it to the Sandy Hook attorneys, and that, I assume, would affect how the information can be used. Even if that’s not true, I think the judge is going to want to take a very hard look at the total fuck-up just to make sure Jones can’t wriggle free.

      Kind of what blue dogcollar said. Even if it’s admissible, it’s going to take some time to dig through all the crimes and then file charges.

      But we should all take heart in knowing that shitstain Jones is absolutely fucked. And hopefully word will get around to all the other lying fuckers that they can be held responsible for their bullshit.

      • …I don’t exactly know how that stuff works…but I feel like the lawyers for the sandy hook parents deserve some credit for slow playing their hand

        …letting them know they fucked up & letting them waive any claims to privilege/inadmissibility surely has to shore up any claim it was “leaked” through official channels by some sort of inside man with a conscience, doesn’t it?

        …maybe it strengthens an incompetence-of-counsel argument…I don’t know…but that stuff is out there now in various shades of the public record & I have to believe that ends badly for him…for which small mercy I’m prepared to be grateful

    • Short answer: This is not a criminal trial, so jail was never going to be the immediate outcome. And generally it’s hard to get perjury convictions, though I should note, this case is about as perfect a set of evidence as is imaginable, so anything could still happen. (The other point is that incompetence is a less-usable defense in a civil trial vs. a criminal one, so that’s a much smaller point of potential appeal than I think most people are aware of in this case!)

  5. I will scream this until I turn blue: W lost his presidency the moment he spent the summer of 2005 taking his “Let’s privatize Social Security!” show on the road. Katrina provided the visuals of his failure (and the war was going even worse than usual at the time) but he pitched this shit to his base and his base HATED IT WITH THE FIERY HEAT OF A THOUSAND SUNS.

    Please, Ron Johnson, please tell us more about how you and the GOP want to take money away from the people who vote.

    • And that’s privatizing it, which is arguably* less bad than making all the old people line up every year to beg for their food and medicine. Which, when I think about it, has to be the game plan for this imbecile.

      *Yes, I know privatization is a thinly veiled attempt to let Republican money managers demand HUGE management fees. But old people don’t, necessarily.

  6. Today’s header jpg is my management’s motto.

    This week at work has been eye rolling to say the least and also scab picking (recent job rejections and past work promotion then dumped back to the production floor.)

    They’re going back to track certain lead times (same stuff I did 5 years ago) after being told they want to go in a different direction (which is management talk for the same direction, but without me.)

    I’m torn between yelling at them that they have no clue what the fuck they’re doing and being a petulant mute shithead.  Leaning strongly towards mute shithead because I know they’re going to do what they want and it’s going to be dumb as fuck.

    The time frame for this lead time they want to use is based on a flawed unrealistic model laid out by a inept idiot (now associate director) and two lazy idiots that has no reality on how we actually do our work.

    It’s not that I expect folks to understand or more importantly care, I just want to unload some of my personal frustration here.

  7. I’m late to the party, but…

    Ron Johnson is a goddamn embarrassment. Not only to the state of Wisconsin, but to the state of humanity.

    Alex Jones is also an embarrassment to humanity.

    And, nah… totally not going all Handmaid’s Tale here in good ol’ ‘Murrica. Tooootally not. Everything’s fiiiine.  🙄

Leave a Reply