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Mitch McConnell sees the handwriting on the wall regarding the filibuster and so he is using the filibuster leverage he has now to prevent its repeal. McConnell is refusing to agree to the organizing resolution, which determines committee ratios, committee membership, and other agreements between the parties on the operation of the new Senate, unless Democrats commit to not repealing the filibuster. …


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As we were all focused on Trump’s attempted coup or, more accurately, autogolpe, the newly constructed conservative Supreme Court continued to abuse the shadow docket, usually unsigned summary orders, to further enact what look more like partisan political decisions than actual interpretations of law. As Steve Vladeck notes, the Court has used the shadow docket to clear “the way for the president to proceed with many of his most controversial policies without a final determination of their legality”.

Mifepristone is a drug used in medication abortions and it is the only one of the 20,000 FDA-approved drugs that requires that the patient not only pick up the drug in-person at a medical facility but also sign a disclosure form. Because of the pandemic, the FDA had waived the requirement for in-person pick-up of other drugs including certain controlled substances, allowing delivery instead, but did not include mifepristone on that list. A number of groups sued the FDA, challenging its unique treatment not only in comparison to other FDA-approved drugs but also with regard to its exclusion in the relaxation the in-person requirement due to the pandemic. A district court agreed with the plaintiffs, deciding the FDA was unconstitutionally limiting the rights of women to receive abortions even without the existence of a pandemic, while also citing not only the dangers of COVID but also the extensive evidence that mifepristone had a similar health risk as taking aspirin or ibuprofen. …


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As all those people who have paid vast sums to Trump cronies and donated vast sums to the Trump campaign wait to see if their Trumpian equivalent of papal indulgences for this life will be accepted, let’s not forget that Trump was earlier handing out pardons like candy to his criminal cronies. Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Mike Flynn were all rewarded for their omerta. At the same time, over at the DOJ and SEC, the Trump administration was also handing out the equivalent of pardons to Trump’s favorite corporate criminals.

Deutsche Bank (DB), the only Wall Street bank that still did business with Trump after his casino bankruptcies, agreed to pay a pathetic $125 million fine for bribery violations that extended over a nine year period, ending in 2017. Over those years, DB paid over $7 million in bribes that reportedly made the bank over $35 million, an amount that would be seemingly hardly worth committing the crime for to begin with. According to the NY Times, “Deutsche Bank paid consultants ‘where no invoices were submitted and where invoices contained insufficient documentation to detail what services were performed’. Others were paid in excess of what their contracts called for, or were paid even though they had no contract at the time”. This settlement follows another paltry $16 million settlement with the SEC in 2019 for bribing foreign officials in China and Russia by hiring their relatives. …


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As we search for some historical parallel for an American President inciting an insurrection, perhaps the most relevant example is offered by Ronald Shafer who points to the aftermath of the 1960 election where Kennedy squeaked by Nixon. The post-election period in that race closely mirrors the situation we face today and would have probably also resulted in an open insurrection if the extremists had had access to social media and a national TV propaganda network and Nixon had opted to contest the results in the way that Trump has.

In 1960, Kennedy won the popular vote by a little under 113,000 votes out of the 69 million that were cast. That slim margin eventually translated into a rather substantial 303–219 Electoral College victory. In the 2020 election, Biden’s popular vote victory was a resounding 7 million votes which translated into a substantial 306–232 Electoral College victory. But, in an almost exact reversal of 2016, a swing of under 100,000 votes across three states would have provided Trump with an Electoral College victory. …


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One of the infuriating hypocrisies of the Republican seditionists’ mythical claim of election fraud is that the current structure of the American electoral system already provides substantial advantages to Republicans. At the state level, the now constitutionally protected scheme of extreme partisan gerrymandering has allowed Republicans to control the state legislatures in multiple states despite not winning the popular vote. Similarly, partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts has been shown to give Republicans a 19 seat advantage in the US House of Representatives. Republicans have been able to control the US Senate for a large part off the current century despite never representing a majority of Americans. Today, the GOP Senators represent 40 million fewer Americans then Democrats in a 50–50 Senate. Finally, despite winning the popular vote just once this century, Republicans will have held the White House for 12 of the 24 years when Biden’s first term ends. …


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For House Republicans, the time for choosing came yesterday and all but ten of them sided with the seditionists over democracy. If the reports that a significant portion of the Republican caucus actually feared for their own and their families lives if they voted for impeachment are actually true, then I fear that our already fragile democracy may already be lost. More worrying is the increasing evidence that the armed insurrectionists had help from inside the halls of Congress.

Democrat Mikie Sherrill claimed that “members of Congress…had groups coming through the Capitol” for “reconnaissance” on the day before the insurrection. Her charge was then backed up by a number of other Representatives, some of whom have military backgrounds, who wrote in a letter demanding an investigation that they “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex on Tuesday, January 5. This is unusual for several reasons, including the fact that access to the Capitol Complex has been restricted since public tours ended in March of last year due to the pandemic…These tours were so concerning that they were reported to the Sergeant at Arms on January 5. The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day…Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex. The presence of these groups within the Capitol Complex was indeed suspicious”. …


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Throughout my lifetime, there has been a pattern to American politics and it basically goes like this: Republicans abuse the political and economic system in ways that are often unconstitutional; Democrats retake control of the government and are forced to use their political capital restoring the economic and constitutional order, allowing the corrupt Republican party to rebuild and start the cycle all over again. And each time, it seems, that rebuilt Republican party becomes just a little more extreme, culminating, for now, in Trumpism.

It was Democrats who had to the heavy lifting of political and electoral reform as well as exposing the unconstitutional abuses of the intelligence services in the wake of Nixon’s corruption. Our “reward” was Reaganism, a more conservative and openly racist Republican party. It was Clinton who had to repair the economic damage of the Reagan/Bush recession to the exclusion of pursuing the Iran/Contra criminals whom Bush had already pardoned. Our “reward” was a GOP that presented itself as “compassionate conservatism” but gave us war crimes, economic collapse, the belief it could “create its own reality”. It was Obama who again had to repair the economic damage of the Great Recession and decided to “look forward” rather than pursuing the torturers and Wall Street criminals. Our “reward” was Trump and the most corrupt administration in American history, supported and abetted by the totality of the now seditionist Republican party. And it will once again be up to Biden and the Democrats to use their political capital to repair a broken economy, overcome COVID with a mass vaccination program, and institute the political and electoral reforms to prevent another Trump, all while potentially fighting an armed insurrection. …


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The most recent edition of the New Yorker has a story about the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, an assassination that was ordered by the country’s own Prime Minister. Ben Taub writes, “Giovanni Bonello, a former Maltese judge who served on the European Court of Human Rights, predicted Daphne’s death. Later, when Paul asked him how he had known, Bonello replied that a constitutional system is only as strong as the people who implement its checks and balances. ‘There have always been abuses-it’s not as if the previous governments were immaculate,’ he said. But now the weaknesses were being exploited ‘by people who don’t care about integrity.’ …

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m2c4

Thoughtful discussions on politics and economics with some sidelights in photography and astronomy.

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