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Tag: ted cruz

What’s So Bad About ‘Coastal Elites’?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

There was a time when "coastal" was an innocent geographical adjective, as in "coastal islands" or "coastal flooding." It referred to events and places located on large bodies of saltwater. But somewhere along the way, "coastal" gained a sinister, shameful connotation.

Populists and pseudo-populists have long fulminated against elites. But these days, the only thing worse than being one of the elite is being one of the "coastal elite."

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Why Would Ted Cruz Try To Cripple A Major Anti-Bribery Statute?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is pushing to weaken a campaign finance law in place to deter candidates from committing bribery.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Texas lawmaker's attempt to make changes to America's campaign finance law could negatively influence the direction of the country and election finance practices, going forward.Cruz is reportedly seeking to dismantle a campaign finance provision that imposes a $250,000 maximum on personal loan repayment to political campaigns using funds collected after an election has concluded.

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Right-Wing Media Won’t Stop Lying About Afghan ‘Hanged’ From Chopper


Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Multiple right-wing media figures, outlets, and social media users falsely claimed that a viral video showing a man in Afghanistan suspended from a helicopter was an execution by the Taliban. Other footage of the flight showed the man alive and well, and reportedly he was attempting to fix a flag.

This narrative is just one example of multiple falsehoods spread by conservatives to attack President Joe Biden following his decision to withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan.

As Media Matters previously wrote, Fox News host Sean Hannity aired the footage on the August 31 edition of Fox News' Hannity, falsely claiming it showed the Taliban dangling a hanged man from a Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan. But Hannity's claim had been debunked before his show aired.

Conservative media personalities and politicians — including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) — also repeated the false claim on Twitter, using it to criticize the Biden administration's decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Cruz later deleted his tweet, writing that the information in it "may be inaccurate."

A tweet by Rep. Jason Smith that reads "On the day that we see innocent people hanging from an American helicopter, the Biden Administration decides to pull out early leaving behind hundreds of Americans and even more innocents to die at the hands of the Taliban. It's unacceptable and heartbreaking."

A Fox anchor along with multiple contributors and guests have also engaged with the false claim, as have other right-wing cable channels like One America News Network and Newsmax, other media organizations and users on fringe social media platforms.

Fox News and Fox Business

  • On August 30, a day before Hannity himself pushed this lie, Hannity guest Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) said that "we had a video today of one of our Blackhawk helicopters with somebody hanging from it as it moves through the sky."
  • Also on August 30, guest Elliot Ackerman said on The Ingraham Angle that "we just saw the Taliban flying a Blackhawk helicopter above Kandahar with a dead body hanging from its bottom."
  • On August 30, Fox Business guest Stephen Yates said: "We have today the Taliban hanging someone from a helicopter."
  • On August 31, Fox Business guest Sam Brown said, "We're seeing the reality of the Taliban now flying Blackhawk helicopters over Kabul, hanging their enemy."
  • Later the same day, Fox contributor Katie Pavlich said on The Five, "They are hanging people from our helicopters." Pavlich repeated this later in the show, saying the Taliban have "been using" weapons left behind "to execute our allies who helped us on the ground. … They hung a guy with a helicopter."
  • That evening, Fox Business anchor David Asman was discussing the helicopters U.S. forces left behind and said: "At least one was used yesterday in horrific fashion to hang a human being. We don't know the circumstances of that. We don't know who that person was that was hanging from the helicopter. But in one of the typically sick dimension of the way that these -- the Taliban think, or whoever was piloting that helicopter, that's how they used it."
  • And on September 1, Fox News contributor Charles Hurt said on Fox Business, "The image of our Blackhawk helicopter flying around Kabul with the body of what appears to be a dead person hanging from the bottom of it -- those images get seared into people's minds, and they never forget it."

Newsmax

  • On the August 31 edition of the morning show Wake Up America, Newsmax's Alex Kraemer showed and read a tweet claiming that the Taliban "are now hanging innocent civilians from [helicopters] for the world to see." Later in the show, co-host Rob Finnertysaid: "We saw someone hanging from a helicopter on video. This person was dead."
  • During Newsmax's August 31 midday show John Bachman Now, the host said there are "U.S. Blackhawks reportedly being flown by the Taliban with people hanging from them."
  • Later that day on American Agenda, Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield said the Taliban were "flying people hanging from Blackhawk helicopters yesterday." Later in the show, former Trump spokesperson Jason Miller referenced people in Kabul risking being "flown around the city hanging by their neck off of a helicopter."
  • On September 1, Finnerty repeated this lie on Wake Up America, saying: "We saw somebody hanging from a U.S. military helicopter over Kabul just a couple of days ago."

One America News Network

  • On August 31, the host of OAN's In Focus with Stephanie Hamill said: "There's video circulating online of them in an American helicopter with a man hanging by his neck off of the helicopter." Her guest, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), replied: "That's sick. That is sick."
  • Later on Real America, host Dan Ball previewed the video he claimed shows "the Taliban flying one of our Blackhawk choppers in Kandahar with a body hanging from it" with a long-winded warning about graphic content. He added: "Now, have we vetted it all out? Can I confirm it happened yesterday? I don't know when it happened. It's all over the web. It's from Kandahar. I can't read what that says, but we're getting this from multiple sources of folks that were there on the ground. They confirm it's one of our choppers, they confirm it's from Afghanistan. I don't know who's hanging there, but -- you want to see this stuff come over here? And I'm not trying to fearmonger one bit. I'm keeping it real, folks."

Other right-wing outlets and social media

  • On August 30, Gateway Pundit shared a screenshot of the video on its website along with tweets containing versions of the video, incorrectly claiming that "today the Islamists used US helicopters to hang 'traitors' in Kandahar Afghanistan" and argued that the Taliban was "openly mocking" the U.S.
  • On August 31, the New York Post published the video on its website along with an article that said "it is not immediately clear exactly how [the person in the video] is attached or if he is alive." The piece then quoted "some journalists" who it says "insisted that it showed someone who had been hanged — and then paraded in the skies."
  • The video of the helicopter and screenshots from the video also spread on several fringe right-wing social media platforms between August 30 and September 1, including Gab, 4chan, and Patriots.win. This content was also shared widely among right-wing users on the messaging app Telegram. Many of these posts criticized the Biden administration, with one Patriots.win user claiming, falsely, that the Taliban was "flying [a] Biden-provided Blackhawk helicopter…while hanging someone from it." This post quoted a tweet stating that "it's an absolute shitfest to see the Taliban now actually flying US BlackHawk helicopters, hanging people by the throat from them!! The American President will never be forgiven for this!!"
Research contributions from Leo Fernandez and Bobby Lewis

Dodging Guilt, DeSantis Scapegoats Immigrants For Covid Surge

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is attempting to shift the blame for his state's alarming uptick in COVID cases but he's already facing pushback against that effort. Over the last week, the Republican governor has taken aim at the (CDC), President Joe Biden, his administration, and even immigrants.

"Joe Biden has the nerve to tell me to get out of the way on COVID while he lets COVID-infected migrants pour over our southern border by the hundreds of thousands," DeSantis previously said. "No elected official is doing more to enable the transmission of COVID in America than Joe Biden with his open borders policies."

On another occasion, DeSantis attempted to place the blame on unvaccinated and undocumented immigrants. According to the Florida governor, "it's immigrants crossing the border — and not the Floridians he has encouraged to behave irresponsibly, the unvaccinated or the unmasked — who are spreading variants."

DeSantis' remarks echo the words of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Fox News' Sean Hannity. Now, DeSantis' claims are being completely debunked. An analysis published by The Washington Post explains why immigrants are not to blame for the latest accelerated spread of the Delta variant of COVID.

"This idea depends on three key misunderstandings," the paper reports. "A misunderstanding of the surge in arrivals at the Mexico border, a misunderstanding of how migrants are released from federal custody, and a misunderstanding of where the pandemic is actually at its worst."

The analysis also highlights a distinct Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel for the American Immigration Council. He explained how and why immigrants are typically tested far more than any other individuals in the country.

"Migrants are in many ways the most tested group in the country. No other group of people in the entire country is being tested at a near-100 percent rate," he said by phone. "So when we talk about infection rates of migrants, what we actually know is that a lot of people who are testing positive are asymptomatic; who, if they were in the United States, would have just never been tested."

Despite DeSantis' sentiments being debunked, his office released a lengthy statement in an attempt to offer clarity about his remarks. In reference to immigrants, his office did admit that migration is not solely responsible

"What we know from official data is that about 200,000 people cross the border illegally every month. They come from over 100 countries, and some of those countries where a significant portion of the migrants hail from, such as Haiti, have extremely low rates of COVID vaccination. Therefore — When the Biden administration discusses implementing vaccine passports for legal immigrants and tourists coming to our country, but allows the free movement of illegal immigrants through the border and around the country (especially to Florida, which 70% of migrants detained and interviewed by our state law enforcement assisting with border security in Texas reported as their final destination) without any mitigation measures, that is hypocritical.

If President Biden was serious about "shutting down the virus" as he promised, his open border policies do not make any sense. At the very least, it's unfair (not to mention unscientific) that legal immigrants, tourists, and even American citizens are subject to more stringent COVID restrictions than illegal immigrants are. If public health recommendations are about public health, these recommendations should apply to all people equally.

Hospitals report data on inpatient bed usage, ICU capacity, COVID hospitalizations, and other metrics directly to HHS, but they do not report citizenship status of patients, as far as I am aware. The concern is that some people could be feeling fine, but carrying variants from different countries and spreading them to higher risk individuals, who then get extremely ill.

Of course, migration isn't the only factor in COVID spread, and the governor has never implied that to be the case. The main issue that Governor DeSantis highlighted with his comments yesterday was the paradoxical nature of the Biden Administration's support for additional restrictions on Americans and lawful immigrants (namely, the WH support for vaccine passports) while allowing illegal migrants to cross the border and travel through the country freely.

Senate Republicans Shield Super-Rich Tax Cheats — And Democrats Are Silent

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Senate Republicans are dead set on making sure that the rich people who they've been helping to avoid pay their taxes continue to have the privilege of cheating the rest of us. It would appear that the Democrats participating in the sham called bipartisan infrastructure negotiations are okay with that. According to Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, the group is "looking at alternative pay-fors to IRS tax enforcement."

Again, this is about letting the wealthy off the hook for the taxes they already owe. It's not about new taxes. It's not about raising anyone's taxes. It's about continuing to allow the super-rich to cheat the rest of us, who do pay our tax bills every year.

Republicans have been raising holy hell over the idea that President Joe Biden wants to strengthen the IRS enough so that it can go after the really big tax cheats, the ones robbing the nation of hundreds of billions of dollars, instead of the working poor peoplewho are easier to audit, the ones who can't afford lawyers to intervene. Fully funding the IRS and clawing those owed tax dollars out of the hands of people who can damned well afford to pay has been included as one of the ways that the bipartisan group has said they'll pay for their almost $600 billion proposal for hard infrastructure.

That, apparently, is out and apparently Democrats in the bipartisan group are accepting that fact. Even though it's the likes of extremist Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn who are raising hell—extremists who were never going to vote for an infrastructure plan that helps President Joe Biden in the first place. Senate aides working with the group confirmed to The Washington Post that "it is likely to be removed from the deal."

That means that the fire sale of existing infrastructure to the highest hedge fund bidders, who would then be in a position to make the public pay for its use all over again, could still be in. Because they have to figure out how pay for it somehow anyway. Or at least they say they do, which they really don't because borrowing money is still cheaper than dirt. As of earlier this month, White House aides were telling Democrats in phone conversations that was not an option, but we haven't seen a high-level, public denunciation of that idea.

Republicans aren't just having hissy fits over the IRS making them and their buddies pay all their taxes, however; they're outraged that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants them to finish their work. A short exhibit of their varied tantrums:

Never mind that they've supposedly been working on this since April, when Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who is so concerned that there just isn't enough time, started negotiating with Biden. They announced this supposed bipartisan agreement more than three weeks ago. She added that she thought Schumer's scheduling the vote was an attempt "to put pressure on the group to either put up or shut up."

Well ... yes. And about time, too. Because seriously, they've been at this forever. Now, we all know Republicans are awfully rusty when it comes to doing actual work (like writing bills), but there's a bunch of Democrats who could be doing all of that hard part. So what in the hell have they been doing all these weeks, that they can't be ready by next Wednesday?

They've been wasting time, is what they've been doing, hoping to draw this process out and have it die from neglect. And Democrats have been letting them get away with it because "bipartisanship." Now that the $3.5 trillion budget resolution train is getting loaded up, yes, this group needs to put up or shut up. And pay their damned taxes.

Senate Republicans Attack Biden Nominee For Voting Rights Advocacy

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Senate Republicans on Wednesday came out against President Joe Biden's nominee for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, criticizing her support for voting rights and advocacy against the type of voter suppression tactics Republican lawmakers across the country have sought to implement.

The senators said during a Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Myrna Pérez that she would not be able to rule impartially on voting rights issues if she were seated on the court.

Pérez is currently on leave from her role as the director of the Brennan Center for Justice's Voting Rights and Elections Project, where she analyzed and criticized voter suppression laws that have been passed by GOP-controlled state legislatures in the wake of Donald Trump's loss of the 2020 presidential election.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took issue with Pérez's advocacy against voter suppression laws.

"You have waged litigation campaigns and opposed voter ID laws, you have opposed voter integrity laws, you have opposed prohibitions on ballot harvesting, you have advocated for felons being able to vote," Cruz said, calling her a "radical activist."

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said she didn't believe Pérez could be neutral, tweeting, "Myrna Pérez is too busy being an activist to concentrate on being a second circuit judge," Blackburn tweeted, sharing a video of her questioning of Pérez.

Pérez responded, "In the great genius of our Constitution, people play different roles," according to the Hill newspaper. "Advocates zealously argue on behalf of their clients in as many forms as they can. I have had the privilege and pleasure of doing that."

Democrats and voting rights groups responded to the Judiciary Committee Republicans as well.

"Sen. Ted Cruz claims that Myrna Pérez is a 'radical' activist because of her advocacy for the right to vote. Guaranteeing access to the polls is anything but radical, and we need judges with civil rights experience like Pérez on our courts," the Alliance for Justice tweeted, urging Pérez's confirmation.

The NAACP's Legal Defense Fund also tweeted support for Pérez, writing, "Federal judges play vital roles in preserving constitutional democracy. It's critical that judges have a demonstrated commitment to fairness and the rule of law. Myrna Pérez has dedicated her career to strengthening and protecting voting rights and our democracy."

Senate Democrats are taking advantage of their slim majority in the chamber to prioritize the confirmation of Biden's judicial nominees.

The pace at which they are confirming his court picks is faster than any president in the last 50 years, according to a report by CBS affiliate WUSA9 in Washington, D.C. To date, seven of Biden's judicial nominees have been confirmed, more than the two judges Trump had confirmed at this same point in his term.

Republicans have yet to block one of Biden's judicial nominees — who have been far more diverse than Trump's picks.

If Pérez is confirmed, she'll be the only Latina to serve on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, and the first since then-Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Cruz Compares Vaccination Outreach To Soviet Communism

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) compared President Joe Biden's efforts to make COVID-19 vaccines accessible for all Americans to totalitarian communism on Thursday, becoming the latest congressional Republican to push fear-mongering rhetoric on the subject.

"When the Biden admin calls for 'targeted' 'door-to-door outreach' to get people vaccinated, it comes across as a g-man saying: 'We know you're unvaccinated, let's talk, comrade,'" Cruz tweeted.

"My bill to ban federal vaccine passports prohibits the feds from maintaining a vaccine database," he added.

The term "comrade," used as a greeting, typically refers to a fellow member of the Communist Party, and has long been associated with the Soviet Union.

Contrary to Cruz's assertion, Biden is not launching a Soviet-style attempt to force people to receive the COVID-19 vaccines.

Biden explained in a press conference Tuesday that after initially focusing on mass vaccinations, the next step was to make vaccines available to the people who had been resistant to or are still unsure about receiving them, or those unable to get them previously.

"Now we need to go to community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, and oftentimes, door to door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus," Biden said. "Look, equity, equality — it remains at the heart of our responsibility of ensuring that communities that are the hardest hit by the virus have the information and the access to get vaccinated."

The strategy is not new. The Department of Health and Human Services' COVID-19 "community corps" have been working since May to send teams in targeted areas to knock on doors to educate people about the shots and sometimes even offer to vaccinate them at home.

Like Cruz, other congressional Republicans have tried to persuade Americans into thinking the vaccination efforts are tyrannical.

On Tuesday, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene likened the approach to Nazi "Brownshirts," or paramilitary forces, tweeting, "Biden pushing a vaccine that is NOT FDA approved shows covid is a political tool used to control people. People have a choice, they don't need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations. You can't force people to be part of the human experiment."

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert made a similar comparison. "Biden has deployed his Needle Nazis to Mesa County," she wrote on Thursday. "The people of my district are more than smart enough to make their own decisions about the experimental vaccine and don't need coercion by federal agents. Did I wake up in Communist China?"

Ohio's Rep. Warren Davidson tweeted on Wednesday, "Wait a minute. So the Trump administration can't even ask who is a US citizen -- while doing the census -- but the Biden administration can go door to door to know who isn't vaccinated? This might just be about power to some people…"

"It's NONE of the governments business knowing who has or hasn't been vaccinated," said Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, adding, "In 2021, the nine most terrifying words in the English language: 'I'm from the government, have you been vaccinated yet?'"

The tweet appeared to be a reference to a 1986 news conference during which then-President Ronald Reagan claimed, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help."

Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, meanwhile, offered a warning, tweeting on Tuesday, "A lot of people have big government antibodies. Don't knock on those doors."

As Cruz and his colleagues discourage efforts to help people get vaccinated, their own constituents are the ones at the greatest risk as the deadly Delta variant spreads across the country.

In recent days, Republican-leaning areas, where far fewer people are immunized, are seeing another spike in coronavirus cases. In Democratic-leaning areas, where vaccination rates are much higher, that appears not to be the case.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday found that 93 percent of Democratic voters say they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or plan to be. Just 49 percent of Republicans said the same.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Republicans Downplay Delta Variant Dangers — And Discourage Vaccination

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Republicans are dismissing concerns that deadly coronavirus variants might bring new spikes as fear-mongering. But they are also discouraging the vaccines that could protect their constituents.

"No one cares about the Delta Variant or any other variant. They are over covid & there is no amount of fear based screaming from the media that will ever force Americans to shut down again," tweeted Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Monday. "Forced masks and vaccines will cause Dems to lose big. All voters are over covid."

Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie tweeted charts to suggest that the Delta variant, which fueled major case spikes in India and is rapidly becoming the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States, is not all that scary.

"Don't let the fearmongers win," demanded Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. "New public England study of delta variant shows 44 deaths out of 53,822 (.08%) in unvaccinated group. Hmmm."

Though less than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated and children under age 12 are not yet able to get any coronavirus inoculation, GOP lawmakers have pushed to lift all safety measures.

"Fully vaccinated Americans should be able to return to normal," wroteTennessee Rep. Diane Harshbarger last Monday, urging an end to mask requirements on airplanes.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz agreed, bragging that he had backed legislation to lift the requirement and complaining that "every Dem" on the Commerce Committee voted against it.

"I joined my colleagues in calling on the Biden administration to end mask mandates for vaccinated Americans on planes and public transportation," wrote Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis on Friday. "There'='s simply no science backing up this mandate. Wyoming citizens are ready to get back to life as normal."

After Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top epidemiologist, suggested he would wear a mask in areas with low vaccination rates as an extra precaution, Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas claimed that his "flip-flop is what causes low vaccination rates — Americans feel like they're being lied to."

"I agree w/ @CDCgov, the vaccine is effective against Delta Variant," he added. "Masks not warranted if you're vaccinated."

But while vaccines have drastically reduced coronavirus cases and severity for those who actually get them, they are not 100 percent effective. In Israel, the health ministry reported Sunday that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine was about 64 percent at preventing infection in June — as the Delta variant became increasingly common there.

Contrary to Greene's suggestion that the nation no longer cares about the COVID-19 pandemic, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday found 73 percent of Americans believe "more people need to get the vaccine to help stop the spread" of the virus. Just 22% believe community spread "is so low that there is no need for more people to get the vaccine."

But many Americans are still refusing to get vaccinated — and the divide appears to mirror political leanings. Of the 20 states that met President Joe Biden's target of having 70 percent of their adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4, every one was a state that voted for the Democrat in the 2020 presidential election. The states with the lowest vaccination rates nearly all voted for the Republican.

Making matters worse, some Republican legislators have actively discouraged people from getting vaccinated.

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin held a news conference last Monday to warn against the very rare side effects of the coronavirus vaccines by highlighting a handful of people who say they were harmed by them.

"But instead of encouraging more people to get vaccinated so we can be rid of this plague once and for all, Johnson has chosen to use his taxpayer-financed megaphone to draw attention to a vanishingly small number of people who believe they suffered a serious side effect," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial board wrote last Wednesday.

They called him the "most irresponsible representative of Wisconsin citizens since the infamous Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy in the 1950s."

Massie and several of his fellow House Republicans have also opposed efforts to vaccinate all members of the military.

"I've been contacted by members of our voluntary military who say they will quit if the COVID vaccine is mandated," he tweeted Saturday. "I introduced HR 3860 to prohibit any mandatory requirement that a member of the Armed Forces receive a vaccination against COVID-19."

Service members are not allowed to abandon their jobs — doing so during their contract is a crime punishable by up to five years of confinement.

This is not the first time Republicans have minimized the threat of the virus and attacked those trying to curb its spread. Then-President Donald Trump admitted in February 2020 that he knew the coronavirus was deadly and that he mislead the nation intentionally because he "wanted to always play it down."

While the number of daily cases and deaths has dropped significantly since Trump left office, the pandemic is not over. More than 11,000 Americans tested positive for the virus on Monday; almost 200 died.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.