You can read the full article here.
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, his guest is Nobel Climate Scientist Michael Mann who talks with Al about “Denier tactics and idiocy.” He also discusses his new book The New Climate War. Though the initial conversation took place before the Texas disaster, the two got together again afterwards to talk about it and how Climate Change was foundational to what happened.
A month ago, I wrote an article about what I thought Democrats should do about the filibuster. You can the whole thing here if you missed it or want a refresher, or loved it so much you want to read it again and again, but if none of those fit your preferences, the core point was this --
"For the longest time, as I've heard Democrats complain about the filibuster and wanted to get rid of the rule, I've argued against that. I understood what was being complained about and why, but my feeling was that the problem wasn't with the filibuster, but how the rule had changed and been abused over the years.
"Once upon a time, if you wanted to filibuster, you had to literally stand up, not ever take your seat and talk. Or pass along the right to talk to someone else -- but they would have to stand and talk, not sit down, no bathroom breaks. It not only was a physical challenge, but it showed to the entire country who specifically was filibustering and blocking the Senate from moving forward, keeping legislation from passing. There was both a physical challenge and political risk to filibustering. You had to stand and talk."
And what had prompted me writing the article was an op-ed in the New York Times written by two eminent lawyers -- Burt Neuborne, a professor at New York University Law School, and Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (and my Northwestern University roommate Jim Backstrom's debate partner). The foundation of their argument, "Make the Filibuster Difficult Again," was the very point I've been making for years -- you don't have to get rid of the filibuster, just make it hard to do. Like it initially was written and intended.
After writing my piece here, I spent a lot of time on social defending my position against those who simply thought the only solution was the end the filibuster. And it was "a lot of time" because pretty much most of the people on social media who responded thought I was wrong. Actually, I don't think anyone rose up to say, "Hey, that's a great idea! Way to go!" So, "pretty much most of the people" shall herein be defined as "all." While ending the filibuster is something that I think does make sense. and I'd be fine with it, I don't think it's the "only" solution. And further, I thought and still think a whole month later, that for several reasons, one of which has nothing to do with the rule itself, dealing with the filibuster that way makes the most sense.
(That "other reason which has nothing to do with the rule itself" is that I think changing the rule this way could possible help convince Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema -- who are both against ending the filibuster, which kills the idea in the Senate -- that this is something they could actually support.)
I bring all this up because I was thrilled to see Chris Murphy say basically the same thing on Rachel Maddow’s show last night -- and then Norm Ornstein said something similar on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show that followed. And that afternoon, Chris Van Hollen said it, too, on one of the MSNBC daytime shows. Ornstein's two suggestions were much more detailed than what anyone said, including me, and both were fascinating, but as involved and intricate as his ideas were, the principle beneath them was the same as everyone's – keep the filibuster, but make it much more difficult and with a consequence. And everyone also made the same point that dealing with the filibuster this way had the added benefit of that they might possibly satisfy both Senators Manchin and Sinema.
Whether it will happen, who knows. I don’t hold my breath. But it was still nice to see.
Sometimes, Texas and Mississippi make it incredibly hard for others to be decent and do the right thing.
Texas and Mississippi were both pummeled by the recent winter storms, and their residents were put in horribly difficult conditions. And President Biden declared an emergency (as he should have) and sent assistance (as he should have). Texas and Mississippi both also apply for federal aid and get it, which is as it should be when a state or anyone is in need of federal aid.
These are the same Texas and Mississippi who this week got rid of restrictions for wearing face masks and also both opened up their businesses, putting not only all their residents at risk, but also the entire country since people in Texas and Mississippi travel across the country, and people through the United States travel to Texas and Mississippi (okay, not as much to Mississippi...but some) and then back home. All at risk now of transmitting this infectious disease. Actually, not just an infectious disease but because Texas how has all three variants of COVID-19, it is an even more highly infectious disease there than elsewhere. Further, it is core to Texas to sashay around bragging how independent it is, the LONE Star State, the Republic of Texas. Indeed, Texas periodically -- and, in fact, recently -- makes rumblings about wanting to secede from the Union.
All the while asking for federal aid and emergency relief from the federal government when they face some disaster. Especially when they may have even help cause the disaster themselves, as was the case with Texas not regulating energy companies and not participating in the national power grid, but just their own power grid for Texas. Swaggering independence and arrogant secession only carry you so far until all those times when you actually, really do desperately need others.
And to be clear, Texas and Mississippi both deserve federal aid and emergency relief and should get it. Because that's how decency, doing the right thing, caring for others and federal law work. It's just that sometimes, those two states make it incredibly hard for others to be decent and do the right thing.
I mean, seriously, one of the two U.S. Senators in Texas didn't even care enough about the emergency crisis in his own state and chose instead to leave it vacation in Cancun. And when President Joe Biden actually came to Texas to view the devastation, this same Sen. Cruz couldn't even be bothered to join other state leaders, since he was busy going to Florida to promenade at CPAC.
And Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (who at least did meet with Joe Biden) decided to go full-crazy and attack President Biden who is giving emergency aid to the state -- day after declaring Texas is wide open to the coronavirus. No really, he sent out this tweet yesterday --
You see?! I wasn't lying. This is weird even by GOP -- and Greg Abbott -- standards. Greg Abbott just exposed 29 million people to COVID in the only state that has all 3 variants of the disease! And he's slamming the president...who's delivering aid to his state...over the spread COVID. And this doesn't even take into consideration that I can find no evidence that "hundreds" of "illegal immigrants" are being released into Texas by Biden who actually have COVID. For that matter, I haven't heard of the Biden Administration releasing illegal immigrants whether they had COVID or not! It's just weird.
And Mississippi, just on general principle from its long-history of racism added on top of opening the state to the spread of the coronavirus, is enough to grant the place its own spot in hell.
You know what the decent and right thing to do is. Not just because not everyone who lives in those states is a far-right racist luddite or as cruel, thoughtless and vindictive as the worst -- but because it's what you do when decency demands it. And so, yes, they should get the emergency relief and federal aid they need. And that's good. But, man, it takes all of one's decency to not yell, "Screw you, Texas and Mississippi. If you want to spit at the rest of the country whenever it suits you and ridicule damn liberals because it makes you feel good and then come desperately crying for help when you need it, you can prance away on your own like you like to posture you can and dig your way out of the holes you keep helping create for yourselves."
But decency prevails. And you do the right and proper thing -- for the benefit of the greater good, and for the benefit of those in need.
It's just that sometimes, Texas and Mississippi make it incredibly hard.
The news out of Georgia yesterday was that the Fulton County D.A. officially opened its case against Trump for election fraud by going to the grand jury, seeking subpoenas. During this whole process, ever since the telephone call by Trump to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, one odd issue has struck me about it -- and I haven't hear a single analyst mention it. (Maybe some have, of course, but I just haven't heard any.) But hey, that's me, finding the "one odd issue."
As we know at this point, the most damning comment that Trump made in the call was when he said to the Secretary of State: "What I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than [the 11,779 vote margin of defeat] we have, because we won the state."
This is the odd thing:
If all Trump wanted -- which we know is the case because it's exactly what he said on tape he wanted -- was to get just one more vote than the number of votes he was behind...that would have done him absolutely no good. Because if the Georgia Secretary of State had done this, had miraculously "found" the 11,780 votes Trump said he wanted, then Trump would have been ahead by..one vote. And I am sure that under Georgia law a "one vote margin" would have kicked in an automatic recount. And so, they would have done a complete recount of the entire state, every single vote. And it would have been under the most intense, meticulous scrutiny. And ultimately, that detailed recount would have shown reality -- that Joe Biden actually won Georgia by the same margin as had been announced. Maybe, possibly there would have been a shift of a few hundred votes -- one way or the other, it could have benefited Biden, for all we know -- but Biden won Georgia by 11,779. And no recount ever switches anywhere near that many votes. So, Joe Biden would have won, and it would have been meticulously confirmed. And then certified.
Now, to be fair, not knowing Georgia law, it's possible that because the result Trump was on the phone about was already a recount, it might not have triggered an automatic recount. But the recount that had already been done (which Trump was referring to) wasn't a full-state recount, just a partial one. So, I'm sure that the process was available for the Biden campaign to request or at least pay have a complete recount. And since the margin would have been just one vote -- and a profoundly suspicious "one vote" at that -- it is not possible for me to think the Biden Team wouldn't have jumped on that immediately. At which point there would have been that full state recount and...see above. It would have been meticulous and under intense scrutiny, and Joe Biden would have won by about 11,779 votes. Because he did, in real life, win by 11,779 votes.
But Trump, being Trump, thought that if the Georgia Secretary of State just announced on his own, with zero evidence to back it up, that -- oh, by the way, lookee here, it turns out that Trump received ONE more vote than Joe Biden -- that everyone in the country would have accepted that and said, "Well, how's about that! And recognized Trump as the winner of the state. (Which, by the way, still wouldn't have been enough to make him president.) In his warped, diseased mind it didn't even occur to him that the 81 million Americans who voted for Joe Biden wouldn't all say, "Hey, something seems fishy. Look into this."
And so, in the end, it would have gotten Trump absolutely nothing.
Well...hmm, no, that's not exactly true. It wouldn't have gotten Trump the election result he wanted, but it probably will get one one thing. And it's that for all his efforts, the one thing that it appears Trump's megalomania will probably get him is an indictment for election fraud by the Georgia Fulton County D.A.
And possibly a conviction. So, that's two things.
If you missed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on Sunday, the Main Story was a look at police raids and how they've been abused. It's a particularly interesting report that, as always, he and the show's writers are able to get humor in there, as well.
As readers of these pages will no doubt recall, back about three years ago, I wrote a whole bunch of articles about Trump's connection with a highly questionable business partner Felix Sater with what are believed to be Russian mob ties. At the time, during Robert Mueller's investigation, it looked like Sater might get indicted and go to prison -- in fact, even he was reported to be telling friends that he was preparing for that. It ended up not going that far, in part because restrictions were put on Mueller's efforts and that he was limited to only investigation matters connected to the 2016 election, not other areas of criminality. So, the past is past.
Jump forward to yesterday, and this headline in RawStory -- "Stunning new allegations further connect Trump to Russian mobster."
I saw that and immediately thought, "Oh, my, that can only be referring to one person. That has to be... It just has to." So, okay, guess who they are actually writing about. Just one guess.
Yes! Felix Sater. He's ba-ack.
Now, to be clear, this isn't exactly clear to me. On the surface, there doesn't appear to be a direct Trump connection -- just some sleazy money laundering deal that Sater set up with Russia on his own. And yes, as likely as it is that he wouldn't do something that major without Trump, there's still seemingly no direct connection. However, reading further, there is a definite connection connection of sorts to Trump. And also, this isn't mere rumors and ruminations -- there are documents that have been filed in federal cout.
On the surface, this is the notable part of the story. They write --
Now there are stunning new allegations in federal court documents that this Russian criminal network with worldwide reach hired Felix Sater, one of Trump's closest associates, to hide a fortune stolen in Kazakhstan.
Now, as I said, there's no "Trump" in there anywhere. However, if you keep reading deeper, you get to this little nugget -- "Some of the $440 million was intended to finance a Trump tower in Moscow, court papers show."
And yes, this is the same Trump Tower that Trump kept insisting throughout the 2016 presidential campaign was not a deal and it did not exist and he had no dealings with Russia. None. It's also the same Trump Tower that Trump's then-lawyer told an aide to Russian leader Vladimir Putin that if the Tower was built, Putin would be given its $50 million penthouse. Gratis. Just as a way of saying, "Hey, thanks!"
So, is Trump involved with this? The headline says so -- though RawStory headline's are notoriously overblown and clickbait. However, given that some of the money was meant for Trump Tower Moscow and given that a deal of this size by Sater wouldn't seem to be something he'd do on his own, but with Trump.
So...I don't know. But I've felt for three years that there were really problematic issues for Trump with Felix Sater. And Sater has felt he would be going to prison. So...I don't know. We'll see.
You can read the full story here. Watch this space.
It's been with an uncommon combination of repulsion and bemusement watching news reports of the tent revival meeting of the Republican Party cult at CPAC. It's not just the clueless speeches about reality in America or the wide-eyed devotion of acolytes, but also the bizarre joy at people there thinking that the golden idol of Trump was great and classy, and not that it more-accurately looked like something clownish that an anti-Trump group put together to ridicule him, like the Trump Baby balloon.
But the most bizarre thing about the Holy Rollers revivalist assembly is the fatal flaw that exists there and in all actions by the Republican Party since the insurrection to overthrow the government that Trump incited and most of the GOP in Congress voted to support.
It's one thing for Republican Party leaders to push the tale that the election was supposedly stolen and that Trump not only won, but won in a landslide, and that Trump is the Great White Hope for the Republican Party but also for America. As dangerous and wrong-headed as that all is, it at least is understandable for them to try that before the Electoral votes were confirmed in order to rile up the base and raise money. But the problem, the fatal flaw, with continuing to push that over the next six weeks -- with no appearance of it letting up one iota -- is that Trump actually, really, truly lost the election. Lost it by seven million votes. And under Trump lost the the White House. Lost control of the Senate. Lost control of the House of Representatives. Had 500,000 Americans die under his stewardship. And left office with an approval rating of 34%.
That's reality. And that's who the Republican Party is genuflecting to and going all-in with.
And none of that even takes into consideration that Trump incited the insurrection to overthrow the government. That he became the first president in U.S. history to get impeached. That though he was acquitted, the vote in the Senate was 57-43 that he was guilty, That seven Republican senators voted that he was guilty -- which is seven more senators to vote an impeached-president guilty from the same party than all presidential impeachments in U.S. history before Trump combined. That Trump is likely to be indicted in at least three investigations. That he will likely have numerous civil suits filed against him, including many for wrongful death from the insurrection he incited. That he has about $800 million in loans coming due over the next four years. That he will be 78 in 2024 with seemingly badly-fading mental health. That he has suggested that he will be campaigning against Republicans in the mid-terms because they voted to defend the Constitution. And more.
No, that's all bonus material. The fatal flaw has nothing about that. It's only that -- as much as the GOP leaders push him and push the fake "Stop the Steal" lunatic theory -- Trump actually lost the election by seven million votes. Actually lost the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. And actually left office with a 34% approval.
By the way, none of this also takes into consideration that 50 million Americans have already had at least one vaccination against COVID-19 and that probably several hundred million Americans will have been vaccinated by the end of summer. That schools will likely be open in the fall. That businesses should be open later in the year. And that Joe Biden and Democrats will get credit for that. Because their clear organization of inoculating American is obvious to most Americans. And that 76% of Americans -- and 60% of Republicans -- support the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Bill that zero Republicans in Congress appear to support which will pass entirely because of Democratic votes. And which, among many things in the bill, will give Americans $1,400.
No, this fatal flaw is only that Trump actually lost the election by 7 million votes. Lost all the seats of government. And has an approval of just 34%.
Everything else that's so disastrous for the Republican Party because of their religious devotion to Trump is just extraneous bonus problems.
And yet there at CPAC you not only got the full hosannah treatment, you got all the added treats like Josh Hawley crying out he won't be silenced, despite no efforts to silence him, just to investigate him for helping incite the insurrection. Cries of "Freedom!!!!" as if they were the homophobic and racist Mel Gibson playing William Wallace defending Scotland -- especially weird for a party that incited insurrection to overthrow democracy. Cries that they are trying to cancel the Muppets, despite their very successful deal to air their shows on Disney+ -- and which is a really weird platform agenda any way, even if there wasn't a pandemic. Ted Cruz making jokes about going to Cancun while his state was in the midst of a freezing energy-crisis disaster. And oh-so-much more.
Actually, maybe the weirdest occurrence was another Ted Cruz attempt at a homophobic joke that polls would show 80% of men named Karen voted for Joe Biden. Which was followed up by a tweet by Don Jr. trying to "top that" by replying to Cruz and saying something like how polls would also probably show that 85% of government workers were incompetent. Never mind that government workers actually worked for his father. And that polls actually showed that only 34% support his father. But perhaps more to the point is that it's really not a smart idea to suck up to Ted Cruz at any time, but most especially these days. Even Eric is leaving Cruz alone.
But there they were, the Republican Party leadership, still building their golden idol to Trump and praying at it. Still pushing their faithful to believe the fantasy that he won the election in a landslide because it was supposedly stolen. Still putting all their political future in Trump. Despite the fatal flaw...which (because they aren't totally stupid) they know.
That Trump actually lost the election. By actually 7 million votes. That under Trump they actually lost the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. And that Trump left office with actually a 34% approval.
And what was true before remains remarkably just as true. This isn't about Trump -- this is about the Republican Party that enabled him, is complicit, and is following him off the ledge.
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, his guest is Dr. Anthony Fauci. Among the… – oh, okay, you probably don’t need any more information than that. You’ll either listen, or you won’t. But just to fill in the blanks, what Al writes is about the show is that among thing the things they discuss are – “When will we be back to normal? Will we be able to find a vaccine for a contagious variant? Now that I’ve been vaccinated, can I see my grandchildren?”
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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