If you want a glimpse of what the legal system is already looking like under the reign of the Republicans and the Federalist Society, listen to this podcast where Chris Hedges interviews Steven Donziger “the human rights environmental justice attorney, about the grim reality when we confront the real centers of power.Donziger has been fighting polluting American oil companies for nearly three decades on behalf of indigenous communities and peasant farmers in Ecuador, and has been under house arrest in Manhattan for nearly two years. He went on trial in federal court in New York two weeks ago on contempt of court charges, which could see him jailed for six months, for appealing the demand to hand over his computer, cellphone, and other electronic devices to the court, a violation, he argues, of attorney-client privilege. No attorney without a criminal record in federal court has ever before been detained pretrial for a misdemeanor offense.”
People somehow believe that the authoritarian take over of the government will not affect them, that their lives will go on as usual. This is not the case. Increasingly, Republican ideologues are being appointed to the courts. They have no interest in law, reason, or justice. They have interest in power.
In this instance, the courts are persecuting an attorney for daring to confront the criminal behavior of a corporation. Federalist schooled Republican judges are using the criminal justice system to make sure that other attorneys realize that if they go after those in power, they risk their careers, their families and their livelihoods. This case is designed to send a message.
A day after a Fox News anchor, Brian Kilmeade, argued that it was not the job of the government to protect people, the NYT is reporting that the FDA approved the use of a drug, Aducanumab, manufactured by Biogen when there was no conclusive evidence that the drug was effective in treating Alzheimer’s.
As is noted in the Times, officials from Biogen worked closely with the FDA during the application process to “…jointly assess the data and chart a path forward.” They also participated in a “joint Biogen-FDA presentation to a committee of independent experts.”
It took a consumer advocacy group filing a complaint and demanding an inspector’s general investigation of the “collaboration” to initiate an internal review.
While corporate media pundits spend time interviewing each other about interviews they have done ( Lemon interviewing Tapper about his interview with Biden, dogs sniffing assholes) and touting their books (Maddow and Scarborough), Trump has dangerously upped the ante in the crime spree that has been the Trump/Republican administration. They are stealing billions from the American people and neither the corporate media nor the Democratic Party is screaming bloody murder as they should be.
As just one minor example of a story that should have been hammered for days, Trump, after getting rid of a top level of Pentagon officials, has appointed stooges (Lewandowski) who will facilitate the massive grifting of the federal government.
With this top layer of sycophants in place, it is being widely reported that (the devil himself) Erik Prince has been awarded a “classified contract” to take over military operations in Africa.
This move would help facilitate a long-pursued project of Prince’s to take over military operations for the U.S. government (he proposed doing so in Afghanistan) and for the Republicans to privatize the enormous defense budget every more than it’s already been farmed out to giant defense contractors.
It was reported that Prince proposed a take-over of the Afghanistan war to the Trump administration earlier in the year. It is not clear why he was turned down. He has come back with his hand out for part of the spoils being awarded by Trump and the Republicans.
In case you don’t remember, Erik Prince is the brother of Betsy de Vos. He was the founder of a mercenary contracting group that was unleashed in Iraq and wreaked so much uncontrolled, unfettered terror among the population, they finally had to prosecute Blackwater and some of his operatives.
Erik Prince is another of the multitude of people (Paul Manafort, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump,Jr. Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, etc.) who would already have been in prison in 2016 if we had a functioning Justice Department which prosecuted white collar, corporate and political crimes (See “The Chickenshit Club” by Jesse Eisinger).
Also see Jeremy Skahill’s book about Blackwater and (the Devil) Erik Prince.
Not long ago a friend of mine was complaining about MSNBC. “I don’t watch MSNBC anymore,” he said. “I’m tired of the blame game.”
I didn’t question the statement since I figured I’d already pushed the conversation to its limit. That means, I had already opened my mouth at least once. In this day and age, for me, that’s always one too many times.
I spent almost ten years living outside the country, missed the entire 80s, while this country was going through what another friend referred to as the “moving right show.” When I returned to the country, I usually refrained from talking about politics since my perspective was radically different from almost anybody I socialized with on a regular basis. And, I was a writer. You don’t need to talk to people about politics and law if you write about them. In fact, most of the time, it’s the last thing you want to talk about.
The past four years, however, have not only pushed me further to the left than I already was (which was pretty far to the left), but made me believe that it was possible to talk to other people about politics since the Trump/Republican crime family was openly dismantling everything decent there ever was about the society.
But, what I quickly found was that even though people wanted to grouse, when you got right down to it, they didn’t want to do much more. What most people wanted was to 1) vent and to 2) “get back to normal.” They didn’t much appreciate it when I pointed out that “normal” was what got us Trump.
In the past four years I have been infuriated, disgusted, and repelled by Trump and the Republican party. But, my real rage has been provoked by Democrats. I suppose you expect the worst from your enemies, but when you see it coming from your friends, it is both disheartening and alienating.
Early on in 2016, after Trump was elected and people (even in Georgia) started to mobilize, I had an exchange with one of the group of women I call the “southern ladies” that summed up my dilemma.
We were at a street demonstration peopled largely by the elderly and women. (I am both.) An acquaintance said: Now, we have to be careful that we’re respectful. I looked at her and blinked. “Why?” I asked. She looked back at me and blinked herself. Neither of us could understand what on earth the other was talking about.
I have spent the past four years trying to understand what she was talking about, what the Democratic Party was talking about. I have been dumfounded, utterly dumbfounded by people who act like the worst thing in the world would be to be perceived by other people as “disrespectful.”
Now, I grew up in the South where being rude was a cardinal sin. But we are watching the destruction of democracy, the transformation of a country into an authoritarian kleptocratic state and people, grown people, are worried about whether or not they will be perceived by the people dismantling democracy as disrespectful. I don’t get it.
And, it’s not only regular people. I sit and watch hearing after hearing where Democrats are in a position to expose the utter corruption and rot that is characteristic of the Republican party and Senator after Senator, Representative after Representative virtually gets down on their hands and knees and apologizes for asking questions. It disgusts me and enrages me.
And, as if things weren’t bad enough, the week after Diane Feinstein went out of her way to grovel at the feet of Lindsay Graham and possibly cost the Democrats a crucial Senate seat, Democrats have already started promising Republicans not to hold them accountable for the crimes that brought us to this point. Democrats, like my friend, might call this “the blame game” but in my neck of the intellectual woods we call it justice. And I am a believer in justice.
We would not even be here, on this precarious knife edge, if there was justice in this country for white collar, corporate and political criminals. Donald Trump, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and many others would not even be in a position to hold office if we had a criminal justice system that prosecuted the crimes of the wealthy. They would be in jail. Instead, they control the government.
And, already, even before the Democrats have won the election *, they are already trying to bow down and promise they will not hold accountable the people who have done everything in their power to steal and degrade democracy. On Nicolle Wallace’s show on Monday, Rick Stengel found it necessary to point out one of the things that he thought was “lovely about the Biden campaign.” Lovely? This thing was that the Biden campaign talks about “bringing the country together [in a way that] is not about recrimination, not about punishing people who may have made a mistake.” We need, says Stengel to be “moving ahead.”
I have been saying for months that people who think that a Biden administration will do anything to hold the Trump/Republican crime family to account are delusional. Biden will do exactly what Obama did in the face of people who had recklessly and greedily brought down an economy. He will say that we need to “move on.” People like Rick Stengel are just paving the way.
George Bush used the Justice Department to create a fictional legal foundation for the use of torture, but Obama said we should move forward not backward.
Every time leadership evades responsibility for holding criminals accountable for their crimes, it paves the way for more crime. Barak Obama and Eric Holder paved the way for Trump as surely as if they had nominated him as the candidate of the Republican party.
*I do not believe that the Democrats will win the “election.” I believe the Republicans will steal it.
I despise the celebrity culture that has taken over this country. The Democratic National Convention was nothing other than a cheap, vacuous, celebrity infomercial devoid of policy and full of “cult of personality” programming. It was an embarrassment.
Somehow, we were supposed to believe that because Joe Biden is a nice guy and has lost family members, he should be president of the United States. Somehow, we were supposed to pat ourselves on the back and glory in the fact that we had nominated an African American, Asian woman to be vice president. Never mind the policies of these two people. Never mind their histories. It is supposed to be enough that these two are telegenic, just as nice as they can be, and fit certain categories of human beings.
That is evidently where we are.
After the convention we were treated to more infomercials. In one of them, Kamala Harris had a charming, laughing, conversation with Barak Obama about Biden liking ice cream and wearing a certain kind of sunglasses. This was seriously intended to get us to vote for the Democrats – the fact that the party elite could chat on television and laugh about the personal foibles of the candidate. This is what they think of us. This is nothing but insulting.
In the true fashion of this celebrity worship culture we have going on, the corporate media is this weekend, endlessly talking about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We are in the middle of a war for a democratic society, and we are engaging in celebrity worship.
As Elie Mystal pointed out writing in the Nation, we don’t have time for this, and Ginsburg would be the first person to see that we don’t have time for this.
Ginsburg occupied a pivotal position on the U.S. Supreme Court and her death has created a crisis that just illustrates the dysfunction of the government and the society. The death of a judge, one judge, shouldn’t throw the country into a crisis. The appointment of one judge shouldn’t mean the difference between democracy and authoritarianism. But, it does. It hands to the Republicans the opportunity to conclusively warp this society into an authoritarian kleptocratic state devoid of rights for regular ordinary human beings.
This is where we are. We have to fight this authoritarian take-over with everything in our beings. But, tonight, on CNN they are hosting Scalia’s son to discuss (out of all the other things about Ginsburg’s life) the beautiful relationship between Ginsburg and one of the arch enemies of law and therefore democracy, Antonin Scalia.
I’m sorry but I just can’t stomach this. I suppose there is somewhere, something laudatory about being able to be friends with people who are sitting at the peak of privilege and wealth and power and working to destroy democracy and the rule of law for the rest of us, but I just don’t see it.
If we have to sit through this eulogizing of Ginsburg, the last thing we need is to have right-wing Federalist Society zealots to talk about her. The last thing we need is to try to convince people that what we need is more bipartisan cooperation. No, we need less, and we need to fight for democratic law and democratic institutions.
The corporate Democrats who have much more reason to talk about Ginsburg, are bad enough. Last night, Nina Totenberg was on Rachael Maddow talking about her friendship with Ginsberg. She said wistfully that Ginsburg had planned to retire in 2016 and have her successor named by the first woman president. Isn’t that special? I might plan to have thoroughbred horses fly out of my ass, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
This story was presented as if it demonstrated something positive about Ginsburg, and it has been retweeted today by people who obviously think the same thing.
To me, it just demonstrates what was wrong with the Democratic Party elite in 2016 and what is still wrong with the Democratic Party elite today.
Barak Obama declined to tell the American people the truth about something crucially important to them. He refused to tell them that Russian operatives had intervened in the 2016 election to the extent of penetrating the voting systems in 50 states.
Obama made this decision, as far as I can tell, because first, he was afraid of the reaction of Republicans if he came out and told the American people without bipartisan support. He was so afraid of appearing partisan he lied by omission, lied about something vital to the functioning of democracy. Mitch McConnell refused to join Obama and make a public, bipartisan statement and Obama didn’t have the guts to do it alone.
Second, Barak Obama was afraid of tarnishing his cherished legacy by appearing to be “partisan” in the 2016 election. He was more concerned with his legacy (to people who despise him) than his country.
Third, Barak Obama was so sure Hillary Clinton was going to win, he decided he wouldn’t have to tell the truth to the American people. Clinton could solve the problem after she was elected.
All three of these excuses stink to high heaven and again illustrate something characteristic about the Democratic corporate elite.
This professional class of Democrats think they know better than the American people how to run the country. They think that their judgement is better than everybody else’s.
They can handle, among themselves, an unprecedented intrusion into the election process. Why tell the unwashed masses?
Obama reportedly thought that telling the truth would shake the confidence of the American people in the election process. He’s not the only member of the Democratic elite to think this. There are an astounding number of people out there who will react like vicious dogs if the integrity of the election process is even questioned.
The logic of this position just amazes me. It goes something like this. The election process has been corrupted but we mustn’t tell the American people because it might shake their confidence in an election process that because of corruption can be no longer relied on. So, it’s better to have the American people believe a lie, continue to trust an election system that can’t be trusted. It’s better because we (the Democratic elite) can deal with it ourselves, behind closed doors. That worked out really well.
This same kind of hubris evidently led Ruth Bader Ginsburg to think she could continue (in ill health and advanced age) to sit on the Supreme Court and have Clinton name her replacement. Having the first woman president name her replacement made a good story, a fitting end to her career. And, like Obama, she was convinced (so convinced she was willing to risk our future) that Clinton was going to win. Even with a compromised election process (which they all knew about), Clinton’s baggage and low approval ratings and an e-mail scandal, Clinton was going to win. Why? Because they wanted her to.
I’ve got news for these people. They don’t get to determine what’s going to happen. They don’t control events. What kind of delusional hubris leads one to stay in a position at the Supreme Court, a crucial position, a history changing pivotal position, counting on the fact that they are going to waltz out with the first woman president because that’s what they want to happen?
I’m sorry. Ginsburg appears to have been a wonderful person, lawyer, activist, but someone genuinely concerned with and committed to the struggle, with the future of the country for ordinary people, would have resigned during Obama’s administration to make sure that the ideals she believed in and fought so hard for, had a chance of continuing.
And, I fault not only Ginsburg but Obama and his administration for not pushing her resignation. I ask you: What is wrong with these people?
I keep going back to a film quote. As Yankees are overrunning Atlanta, Aunt Pittypat is concerned about Scarlet having a chaperone. Dr. Meade, in utter and complete frustration yells: “Good God, woman, this is a war, not a garden party.”
But, this Democratic elite – the politicians, the “strategists,” the pollsters, the pundits – all of them are so filled with pride and smug assuredness that they can’t see what is happening around them.
Even now, after all the mistakes of 2016, the Democratic corporate elite seems to be waltzing off an electoral cliff supported by their own delusions.
Ginsburg wasn’t a healthy 50-year-old. They knew she was ill, had known for years. If they couldn’t convince her to resign when Obama could nominate a successor, they should have had a strategy for what they were going to do if she suddenly died during Trump’s administration. They should have hit the ground running on Friday night, not sat stunned, grief stricken, and still counting on the Republicans to “do the right thing.”
I mean, Jesus F…ing Christ. Anybody who is now, four years into this administration, relying in any way on the Republicans to do the right thing, is just brain dead (I include Cory Booker in that category).
For the first time on Friday night, I heard Chris Hayes interview somebody (Rebecca Traister) who sounded like I and a lot of other people have felt for four years. Traister was and said she was terrified and furious. She sounded like somebody who was terrified and furious, not like the stable of “calmers”, the “institutions are holding” gang on MSNBC who have been interviewed today. Cory Booker, Klobuchar, the presidential historians, Hirono (as much as I love her), Capehart, Jarrett.
I swear I think that part of the deal to convince all the corporate democrats to drop out of the race and endorse Biden was an agreement by MSNBC to interview them every fifteen minutes.
Last week, Cory Booker was on Ari Melber’s (also disgustingly celebrity laden) show claiming that what we needed was a “return to civic grace.” That’s Booker’s answer to an authoritarian take-over, a return to “civic grace.” I’m sure Mitch McConnell will take that “return to civic grace” and stuff it up Booker’s nose.
“ The state of Mississippi allowed tens of millions of dollars in federal anti-poverty funds to be used in ways that did little or nothing to help the poor, with two nonprofit groups instead using the money on lobbyists, football tickets, religious concerts and fitness programs for state lawmakers, according to a scathing audit released on Monday.”
According to the report, released by the state auditor’s office, the money also enriched celebrities with Mississippi ties, among them Brett Favre, a former N.F.L. quarterback whose Favre Enterprises was paid $1.1 million by a nonprofit group that received the welfare funds. The payments were for speaking engagements that Mr. Favre did not attend, the auditors said.
Other large sums went to a family of pro wrestlers whose flamboyant patriarch, Ted DiBiase, earned national fame performing as the “Million Dollar Man.” In a news conference on Monday, Shad White, the state auditor, said it was possible that many recipients of the money did not know it had come from the federal welfare program.
Mr. Favre could not be reached for comment Monday. Mr. DiBiase declined to comment.
Mr. White called the findings “the most egregious misspending my staff have seen in their careers.” The audit found that more than $98 million from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF, was funneled to the two Mississippi-based nonprofit groups over three years. About $94 million of that was “questioned” by state auditors, meaning the money was in all likelihood misspent or the auditors could not verify that it had been spent legally, Mr. White said.
The breadth of the audit — which auditors said included funds that were “misspent, converted to personal use, spent on family members and friends of staffers and grantees or wasted” — raises broad questions about the efficacy of America’s social safety net.
In 1996, the TANF program converted the old federal welfare system, in which cash benefits to poor families were deemed an entitlement, to a system of block grants issued to the states. The new program created work rules and time limits on aid — and, notably, gave each state much more leeway on how to spend the money. Critics say that states do not have to clearly justify that they are spending the money on helping the poor.
“There’s this incredible amount of flexibility,” said LaDonna Pavetti, vice president for family income support policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “It could allow for a lot of things to happen.”
Mississippi Republican lawmakers concerned about the misuse of federal funds have enacted safeguards to prevent fraud by potential welfare recipients. A ThinkProgress article found that in 2016, only 167 of the 11,700 Mississippi families who applied for a TANF payment were approved.
For those who support anti-poverty initiatives, the unfolding scandal has left a particularly bitter taste. “It’s just, ‘How can you?’” said Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald, southern regional director for the Children’s Defense Fund.
Monday’s audit comes after the arrest in February of John Davis, the former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, the agency that distributes the federal welfare block grants. Mr. Davis is accused of taking part in a multimillion-dollar embezzlement scheme.
Five other people were charged in the apparent scheme, including Nancy New, a politically connected figure who was the executive director of the Mississippi Community Education Center, one of the two nonprofit groups mentioned in the report. All have pleaded not guilty.
According to the auditor’s report, sub-grantees who received federal money through Mr. Davis’s group told auditors that Mr. Davis often signed off verbally on the projects they intended to fund, leaving holes in any paper trail. Mr. Davis’s nephew and brother-in-law received work contracts, either through his department, Ms. New’s group, or the other nonprofit group that received money, the Family Resource Center of North Mississippi, the audit states.
Mr. Davis, in a statement to a congressional committee last year, said that Mississippi welfare officials were using the program “to address the needs of those we serve. We see this as a way to eliminate one of the last barriers to finding true self-sufficiency for those who seek to not be dependent on needs-based programs.”
The report also shed light on payments made to entities connected to the wrestling family, and the mixture of self-help and evangelizing that the welfare money was supposedly funding. Mr. DiBiase is listed on federal tax forms as the principal officer of a religious nonprofit called Heart of David Ministries. The report shows the ministry received roughly $1.9 million over three years.
One of his sons, Ted DiBiase Jr., also a wrestler, is listed on state records as the registered agent and officer of a company called Priceless Ventures, which offered a self-help program, “The Law of 16.” The company received more than $2 million, auditors said.
A Law of 16 workbook submitted to Congress features inspirational quotes from Ted DiBiase Jr. and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Auditors said that another son of the elder Mr. DiBiase, Brett DiBiase, also a wrestler, was paid with welfare funds to teach antidrug classes. But Mr. DiBiase, who was one of the six people indicted in February, never gave those classes, auditors said.
Ms. New, the head of the Mississippi Community Education Center, is a well-connected longtime educator who ran a private school in Jackson. Her work in the welfare field was feted by conservatives for helping poor people achieve self-sufficiency.
Mr. White’s office, in a statement, said the group was “particularly dependent” on TANF funding “and engaged in significant misspending.” From 2016 to 2019, the statement said, the group was given more than $60 million in welfare money, and raised less than $1.6 million from other sources.
Among the questionable spending by the nonprofit, the statement said, was the purchase of three trucks costing more than $50,000 each, which Mr. White said were used by Ms. New and two of her sons. Her lawyer could not be reached for comment.
The broader scandal is one of numerous major problems the state is facing, including the coronavirus pandemic and a prison system in crisis.
Danny Blanton, a spokesman for the human services department, said on Monday that steps were being taken to clean it up, including a planned forensic audit. Mr. White said that a state criminal investigation into the misuse of funds continues, in coordination with federal investigators.
A new E.P.A. policy would revoke a 2011 finding that the chemical perchlorate should be regulated. This is a toxic chemical that contaminates water and has been linked to fetal and infant brain damage.
This policy defies a court order that required the agency to establish safe drinking-water standards for the chemical by the end of June.
The policy both acknowledges that exposure to high levels of the chemical can cause I.Q. damage and also opts not to limits the use of the chemical.
Both the Defense Department and military contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman waged aggressive efforts to block the controls on the chemical.
The administration is using the fact that states like California and Massachusetts regulate the chemical to argue that few public water systems now contain perchlorate at high levels and so the nationwide monitoring of the chemical would outweigh the benefits.
Trump has removed State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and replaced him with a buddy of Mike Pence’s.
This is just another move in a series of movies to eliminate independent government watchdogs.
Trump said in a letter that his replacement “meets the appropriate qualifications” for the position. The appropriate qualifications are unquestioning subservience to Donald Trump and his cronies.
Part of this replacement is evidently an attempt to protect Secretary Pompeo from an investigation into his misuse of a political appointee to perform personal task for him and his wife.
In the past few months, Trump has removed Health and Human Services Inspector General Christi Grimm who had issued a report critical of the administration’s response to the coronavirus. He also removed the Intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson.
After having refused to assume the duty of a federal government and left the states to fend for themselves to secure desperately needed PPE, federal authorities are now seizing and rerouting personal protective gear.
Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey have reported seizures of PPE shipments.
A Nebraska-based private jet company whose principle owner donated to Trump and the Republicans before the 2016 election, received a $20 million taxpayer-paid for aid from the federal bailout package in March.
This was the second private plane company founded or owned by Trump donors to receive funds designed for the airline industry.
The other company’s founder gave nearly $50,000 to the Republican National Committee and Trump. They got $27 million in federal funds.
As the corporate media becomes more and more useless, we must turn to other sources.
Podcast: America’s Lawyer, Mike Papantonio
April 1, 2020 Episode: The risks to meat packing employees of the mandated openings; the complicity of the Democrats in the class rip-off of the stimulus bill; Schumer and fast-tracking judicial appointments; claims of Tara Reade; lawsuits against big banks for discriminating against small businesses; insurance companies who refuse to pay claims because of the pandemic.
DNC Lawyers Argue DNC Has Right to Pick Candidates in Back Rooms
Late February, after the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Nancy Messonnier, warned of the coming pandemic, Mike Pance was put in charge of the White House Coronavirus, and the CDC started declining interviews. Federal employees were limited in what they could say publicly. The NYT reported that federal health officials were required to coordinate their statements with Pence’s office. Several lawsuits and complaints and lawsuits have been filed.
MSNBC public editor: Why pundits and journalists insist on false balance.
There is an illusion the media feels obliged to preserve, even more than the illusion of objectivity. “What broadcast media is really selling—literally selling, to its advertisers and to its viewers—is the illusion of stability and certainty in American life, as well as its own role as a wise, trustworthy leader within that system.”
“National news organizations like MSNBC cannot operate effectively outside the assumption of calm, professional equanimity. Their real stock-in-trade is the impression, the conviction, that they know what is going on in the world; that is the reason viewers tune in and the basis of every ad buy. Normality. Stability, a world that is comprehensible and comprehended.”