Saturday Report 5/6/23 - New Florida sign: “No Dogs or Chinese”
The Best of the Rest of the News
— Did Clarence Thomas take a bribe via his wife to gut the Voting Rights Act? Leonard Leo, when head of the Federalist Society, appears to have laundered at least $80,000 from the Judicial Education Project (JEP) (he was an “advisor” to the group) via Kellyanne Conway’s polling company. In the correspondence with Conway, Leo asked that there be no documentation or fingerprints connecting the money going to Thomas back to the JEP, which then had an Amicus brief before the Supreme Court arguing in favor of gutting the Voting Rights Act in the then-upcoming 2013 Shelby County v Holder decision. Thomas’ wife received the money and, sure enough, Thomas became the tie-breaking vote in favor of gutting the voting protections that had been law since 1965, kicking off a massive nationwide voter suppression effort by Republican politicians that lasts to this day. This sure looks like bribery, which definitely doesn’t fall under the rubric of “good behavior,” the constitutional definition of the standard justices must follow to remain on the Court. Will Merrick Garland and his Department of Justice investigate, the way Nixon and Mitchell’s DOJ did with the Abe Fortas case back in the 1960s, leading to Fortas’ resignation? To do any less would be a gross failure of duty on Garland’s part. At the same time, the Senate Judiciary Committee should be issuing a subpoena to Thomas about this, although Republicans are blocking any efforts by the committee right now because Senator Feinstein, 89, is too infirm to show up. (She should resign and Governor Newsom should replace her with a placeholder like Barbara Boxer until the election in November, 2024.)
— “No Dogs or Chinese!” To paraphrase the famous New York sign from the late 19th century about Irishmen, that may as well be the banner Florida Republicans are putting in front of houses for sale in the Sunshine State, with legislation that just passed the state House barring Chinese nationals who are not US permanent residents from buying real estate there. I’d understand — and support — a statewide or nationwide limit on the number or value of houses bought by foreign investors and big Wall Street groups: if done right, it could reduce housing prices in the US, which have been driven up by foreign speculators and massive hedge funds. Like many other countries, I believe we should limit purchases to people who intend to live in the houses and to small US resident investors who own no more than 2 or three homes. But specifically excluding Chinese and nobody else is a bizarre echo of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and is sure to stir up more anti-Asian hate in Florida. It’s racist and stupid.
— Did Trump sell those stolen top-secret documents to the Saudis in exchange for the nearly $3 billion that country has given his family since he left the White House? It’s increasingly looking like that’s a line of inquiry that Jack Smith is pursuing, going after video security footage from Mar-a-Lardo and calling in virtually everybody who worked there to testify before a grand jury. Smith is also going after Trump’s business records around the LIV Golf Tournament, which the Saudi government invented right after Trump left office and it seems Trump is the primary beneficent of. We already know that after Jared Kushner was given a top-secret security clearance (over the objection of the intelligence community), he went to Saudi Arabia and hung out with Mohammed Bin Salman, who was then not in charge of the country. Shortly thereafter, apparently using inside intelligence from US sources, Bin Salman arrested many of his relatives and wrested control of the nation away from the rightful heir, his cousin, who was the son of the king and grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founder. Kushner apparently also helped MBS deal with the fallout from his murder of Jamal Kashoggi, the Washington Post writer and US resident. This entire situation has the potential to get very, very ugly. Selling out your country — and your country’s principles — for $2 billion is not something most Americans support…
— Texas is forcing physicians to create phony “abortion complications” reports for a statewide database, and doctors in the state are furious. Ever since Texas criminalized abortion, Governor Abbott has been dealing with the fallout. One of his many arguments for keeping abortions illegal is that they’re “bad for women,” ignoring the fact that a woman is orders of magnitued less likely to die or be injured by an abortion than by being forced to carry to term and give birth. So now the state has come up with almost 30 medical conditions they call “abortion complications” and is forcing every doctor and hospital in the state to enter into a state database every woman who experiences these “complications” even if they’re not related to a pregnancy. Jessica Valenti has the entire shocking report below, and it’s really well worth reading.
— CNN says, “We don’t need no stinkin’ cop’s opinions!” Or words to that effect, according to officer Michael Fanone, who nearly died from a heart attack after being repeatedly tased on the neck by Trump followers on January 6th. He submitted an op-ed to CNN for publication on their website, opposing their giving Trump millions of dollars worth of free publicity with their upcoming New Hampshire “town hall.” Now that CNN has been taken over by rightwingers, its slant and bias is getting increasingly difficult to ignore (particularly after Brian Stelter’s and Don Lemon’s firings). The network continues to slip in the ratings and it appears they’re now trying to pick up Trump-humpers who may have defected from Fox after learning how much the Fox hosts hate and ridicule their own audience. Apparently nobody told management at CNN that Fox viewers have other alternatives that will be far more to their liking than the increasingly frayed remnants of Ted Turner’s once-great empire. Sad.
— Is the banking crisis deepening or is this a power play by big banks? Half of Americans are worried about their deposits, although that worry is probably misplaced. Deposits in all banking institutions covered by the FDIC (and its analog with Credit Unions) are guaranteed up to a quarter-million dollars, and the Treasury Department and the Fed are both willing and able to aggressively intervene at the slightest whiff of a real bank run. Nonetheless, the value of the stock of mid-sized and smaller banks has been swinging wildly this past week, leading to speculation that investors or even giant banks themselves could be shorting the smaller banks’ stock just to make them easier to pick off and acquire. Hopefully the various regulatory agencies with oversight here are on the job! This could get messy, and there’s no shortage of partisans who’d love to see a banking crisis go national on Biden’s watch.
— Next up in the Republican War on Women™: no-fault divorce. Rolling Stone is reporting that Republican legislators in Texas are pushing an end to no-fault divorce in that state, and several other GOP-controlled states are looking at the same plan. We shouldn’t be surprised: the Texas GOP put into their party platform last year language that said: “We urge the Legislature to rescind unilateral no-fault divorce laws, to support covenant marriage, and to pass legislation extending the period of time in which a divorce may occur to six months after the date of filing for divorce.” Research proves that this will lead to an increase in the rate and severity of spousal abuse, women committing suicide, and the frequency of spousal murder by men, but that’s just fine with Texas Republicans. As Rolling Stone noted:
“Researchers who tracked the emergence of no-fault divorce laws state by state over that period found that reform led to dramatic drops in the rates of female suicide and domestic violence, as well as decreases in spousal homicide of women. The decreases, one researcher explained, were ‘not just because abused women (and men) could more easily divorce their abusers, but also because potential abusers knew that they were more likely to be left.’”
— Pigeon Alert! Almost fifty years ago, I learned from a street performer in New York City that pigeons are actually robotic spies from the planet Xenu, but now US scientists think they can fool them. (After all, you’ve never seen a dead pigeon or a baby pigeon, have you? They must be robots!)
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