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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Arizona Re-Elects Kelly In Key Hold For Senate Democrats, Nevada Still Counting

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly has defeated Republican Blake Masters in Arizona’s Senate race. Arizona has been one of the hardest-fought battlegrounds this year, after both Kelly and President Joe Biden won narrowly in 2020. That marked the first time the state had two Democratic senators since 1953 and just the second time a Democrat had won the state’s presidential election since 1948. With Democrats having held the Senate by the narrowest possible margin for the past two years, this is a critically important win.

Kelly was elected just two years ago in a special election following the 2018 death of Sen. John McCain. Now he will have a full six-year term.

[Editor: Ballots are still being counted in Nevada, where incumbent Democrat Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto appears to be erasing a small lead for Republican challenger Adam Laxalt. Her victory would ensure a Democratic Senate majority even before the outcome of a runoff election in Georgia between incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.]

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

John Fetterman Flips Pennsylvania Senate Seat, Defeating Mehmet Oz

“I got knocked down but I got back up,” Pennsylvania lieutenant governor and Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman tweeted last month, referring to the stroke that took him off the campaign trail for months. Even as Fetterman fought his way back, including doing interviews with the help of closed captioning to help him adapt to a temporary auditory processing disorder, the media worked on painting him as unqualified while giving Oz a pass on things like having hundreds of dogs killed for medical research and promoting quack medicines.

Now Fetterman has gotten all the way back up, defeating Republican Mehmet Oz in the race for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. This is a big pickup for Democrats in the fight to retain control of the Senate.

[With more than 93 percent of precincts reported, Fetterman was projected to win with just over 50 percent to 47 percent for Oz. Democrat Josh Shapiro easily defeated Republican Doug Mastriano in the Pennysylvania governor's race.]

Justice Department Filing Includes Details Of Pelosi Attacker's Motives And Plan

The Justice Department formally announced charges against David DePape, the man who broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home on Oct. 28 looking for Pelosi and, not finding her, assaulted her husband, Paul.

DePape has been charged with “one count of assault of an immediate family member of a United States official with the intent to retaliate against the official on account of the performance of official duties,” and “one count of attempted kidnapping of a United States official on account of the performance of official duties.” The maximum sentences for the two charges are 30 years and 20 years, respectively.

In the affidavit supporting the charges, Special Agent Stephanie Minor offers details about the break-in and attack. According to the affidavit:

“When officers removed DEPAPE from Pelosi’s residence, police body worn camera footage showed a glass door that appeared to be laminated glass, broken near the door handle. San Francisco Police Department recovered zip ties in Pelosi’s bedroom and in the hallway near the front door of the Pelosi residence. In addition, law enforcement searched DEPAPE’s backpack at the Pelosi residence, and they found, among other things, a roll of tape, white rope, one hammer, one pair of rubber and cloth gloves, and a journal.”

Paul Pelosi told a local police officer he had never seen DePape before.

“Pelosi was asleep when DEPAPE came into Pelosi’s bedroom and stated he wanted to talk to ‘Nancy.’ When Pelosi told him that Nancy was not there, DEPAPE stated that he would sit and wait. Pelosi stated that his wife would not be home for several days and then DEPAPE reiterated that he would wait.”

Depape, according to the affidavit, told officers “that he was going to hold Nancy hostage and talk to her. If Nancy were to tell DEPAPE the ‘truth,’ he would let her go, and if she ‘lied,’ he was going to break ‘her kneecaps.’ DEPAPE was certain that Nancy would not have told the ‘truth.’” And this is what he’s telling law enforcement he had planned.

He admitted to having broken into the house through the glass door using his hammer. None of this will stop Republicans from promoting conspiracy theories about how DePape ended up in the Pelosi house.

DePape will face prosecution and is virtually certain to be convicted of something if he’s found competent to stand trial. But the people who fueled his rage by spreading the conspiracy theories he bought into are unlikely to face any kind of justice, and they will remain dangerous.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Republicans Hit Pelosi After Attempted Murder That Left Husband's Skull Fractured

Of course.

For Republicans on the campaign trail, the early-morning brutal attack on Paul Pelosi did not mean a break in attacking the real target of that attack, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And the appalling taste, the wink-wink at an assassination attempt on the second in line for the presidency, was not remotely restricted to Republicans generally understood as extremists.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who was widely portrayed in the media as a calm, moderate kind of guy during his campaign last year, said, at a campaign stop for House candidate Yesli Vega, “There’s no room for violence anywhere, but we’re going to send her back to be with him in California.”

Are we supposed to let the fact that he opened with “There’s no room for violence” obscure that Youngkin used an attempted attack on the speaker that hospitalized her husband as the hook for a ha-ha-we’re-going-to-beat-her line? Not a line that makes any sense, mind you, since there is no Republican wave imaginable that would remove Pelosi from Congress altogether.

As a side note, Yesli Vega, the candidate Youngkin was campaigning for, in May suggested that pregnancy might be less common in cases of rape, as part of an argument against rape exceptions in abortion bans. Like I say, Youngkin’s a real moderate kind of guy.

Youngkin wasn’t alone. Speaking at an Ohio Republican GOTV event, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel rallied the crowd with the question, “Are you ready to fire Nancy Pelosi?” This was, again, a nonsensical call to arms since McDaniel said it while standing in front of a banner for Senate nominee J.D. Vance and at an event in a House district already represented by a Republican. It’s not like she was in some swing district currently held by a Democrat, seeking to win control of the House. It was just a gratuitous shot at a woman whose husband is hospitalized after a violent assault that was aimed at her.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Tom Emmer also targeted Pelosi specifically on Friday afternoon, tweeting a link to an article about the upcoming elections with the text, “In 11 days we are going to make history and #FirePelosi.” It is at least Emmer’s job to with the House for Republicans, but … he couldn’t take a single day off of specifically making it personal against Pelosi? Not one single day? In the name of basic decency?

But that’s the thing. Republicans have spent years building up Nancy Pelosi as the evil witch-lady whose name alone can rile up their base. Using her name is like a reflex for them, something they just can’t do without. And basic decency? That long ago left the Republican Party.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Graham Says 15-Week Abortion Limit Is Step Toward Total National Ban

Sen. Lindsey Graham is not letting up on his national abortion ban, even though many of his fellow Senate Republicans wish he’d be quiet about that until after the election. Graham’s plan may help fire up the Republican base, but he clearly thinks it’s going to win swing voters despite all the available evidence that it will do the opposite.

Graham is out with an op-ed at Fox News (of course) trying to sell his abortion ban as the loving and compassionate and extremely moderate thing to do. Written with Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, the piece opens with a lie and ends with an acknowledgment that a national 15-week abortion ban is just the beginning.

“Pain is part of the human experience, and so is compassion for those who suffer pain,” they write at the outset, selling a policy devoid of compassion for the pregnant people it would affect. “For too long, our nation’s laws have excluded unborn children from this compassion even when growing evidence shows they can feel pain at least by 15 weeks in their development.”

In reality, “The science conclusively establishes that a human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after at least 24–25 weeks. Every major medical organization that has examined this issue and peer-reviewed studies on the matter have consistently reached the conclusion that abortion before this point does not result in the perception of pain in a fetus,” according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Why would that be? “Rigorous scientific studies have found that the connections necessary to transmit signals from peripheral sensory nerves to the brain, as well as the brain structures necessary to process those signals, do not develop until at or after 24 weeks of gestation. Because it lacks these connections and structures, a fetus or embryo does not have the physiological capacity to perceive pain until at least this gestational age.”

Following that lie, Graham and Dannenfelser tell a truth: Graham’s national abortion ban would establish a ceiling, but not a floor, on abortion rights. It would limit abortion rights in states that allow abortion past 15 weeks (as was the national policy until the Trump Supreme Court went to work), but states that wanted to entirely ban abortion could do so.

Next, Graham and Dannenfelser move on to a misleading comparison between the national abortion ban they’re pushing and European laws. “Most of our European allies already limit abortion by at least 15 weeks. Developed nations like Switzerland, Denmark, and Norway allow abortion up to 12 weeks while France, Germany, Belgium, and Spain allow abortion up to 14 weeks,” they write. Here’s the thing: That may be true on paper, but most European countries have broader exceptions than Graham is proposing after those gestational limits.

“We see earlier gestational limits in Europe,” Katherine Mayall of the Center for Reproductive Rights told The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer, but “in practice, if somebody hits a gestational limit of 12 weeks, they’re still able to access abortion care, because the broad grounds after that limit option include things like mental health or the woman’s economic circumstances.” Economic circumstances!

Here’s maybe the best part, though. “For almost 50 years, the American people were denied a voice on abortion,” Graham and Dannenfelser lament, as they push a bill that would deny a voice to many states. And a bill that is, according to post-Dobbs polling, opposed by the public 57% to 30%, a 27-point margin.

It’s lie after lie in a piece intended to sell a policy that lowers the ceiling on medical freedom for pregnant people. And yes, it’s terrible politics for Republicans. The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision put the U.S. on notice that Republicans do want to take away your rights, and Graham’s bill emphasizes that. That’s why so many Republicans who will gladly vote for it after the midterm elections are running scared right now. But he’s just being honest about his party’s goals—and toward the end of his piece with Dannenfelser, Graham acknowledges that this 15-week abortion ban is not the final step.

”There’s a lot more work to be done to ensure that one day every child is protected under the law, and we believe, over time, life will win,” they write. “But this is a reasonable starting place for a debate worthy of the United States Senate and our nation.”

Got that? A national 15-week abortion ban is just the starting point. The only answer is to make sure they don’t get started.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

With Migrant Trafficking Stunts, GOP Governors Mimic Segregationist 'Uptown Klan'

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lured migrants onto a plane in Texas with promises that they would find jobs and work papers in Boston, then dropped them in Martha’s Vineyard, he was echoing an earlier history that shows exactly who he is. Massachusetts state Sen. Julian Cyr immediately identified the similarities to the “reverse freedom rides” of the early 1960s, when segregationist politicians in Arkansas and other southern states bused Black families north to make a political point. That ugly history is very much at play as Republican politicians today bus and fly migrants to Illinois, New York, Washington, D.C., and now Martha’s Vineyard.

“For many years, certain politicians, educators, and certain religious leaders have used the white people of the South as a whipping boy, to put it mildly, to further their own ends and their political campaigns,” Amis Guthridge, one of the architects of the reverse freedom rides, is quoted in an in-depth 2019 piece by Gabrielle Emanuel at GBH News. “We’re going to find out if people like Ted Kennedy … and the Kennedys, all of them, really do have an interest in the Negro people, really do have a love for the Negro.”

Hundreds of Black people, mostly from Arkansas and Louisiana, were misled or, in some cases, coerced onto buses north, ending up in states from California to New Hampshire. But the largest number, nearly 100, were sent to Hyannis, Massachusetts. Because when Amis Guthridge said, “We’re going to find out if people like Ted Kennedy … and the Kennedys, all of them, really do have an interest in the Negro people, really do have a love for the Negro,” he was intending to send people literally to the Kennedys’ doorstep, or anyway to the bus stop closest to where the Kennedys spent their summers, telling them they would meet President John F. Kennedy when they arrived.

Now, we’ve got Ron DeSantis lying to migrants and sending them to where former President Barack Obama vacations in the summer. It’s eerie how the racists of today are replaying a largely forgotten campaign by the racists of the past.

Compare that quote from Guthridge decades ago with this one from DeSantis on Thursday: “Every community in America should be sharing in the burdens. It shouldn’t all fall on a handful of red states,” he told reporters. Other states “don’t like it as much when you get just a small, small, small amount compared to what these folks have dealt with in Texas and in other states.”

The racists of the 1960s had reporters waiting to meet Black southerners at the bus stop in Hyannis. The racists of the 2020s are taking advantage of technology: DeSantis sent a videographer on the plane to Martha’s Vineyard.

The racists of the 1960s threatened to take people off welfare rolls and promised that housing and jobs would be waiting for them. DeSantis had people told they would get work papers and jobs, and had the charter plane pilot tell them mid-flight that they were not going to Boston as promised.

Watching Texas Gov. Greg Abbott turn this project into major far-right street cred, DeSantis was so desperate to get the headlines from treating vulnerable migrants as political pawns that he used Florida taxpayer money to get migrants out of Texas. After the Martha’s Vineyard flight on Wednesday, Abbott had buses drop migrants off in front of the vice president’s residence in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, who represents San Antonio, where the migrants started their day before being flown to Martha’s Vineyard, tweeted, “The Department of Justice needs to investigate Governor DeSantis for using fraud and deception to lure people out of state only to abandon them without fulfilling his false promises. Same for Greg Abbott. They’re engaging in human trafficking.”

DeSantis and Abbott are also probably grasping at a way to get attention that distracts from abortion, since it’s become clear that punitive abortion policies are not an electoral boost for Republicans overall right now—as much as it might help in a Republican primary. But, as is the case with virtually every Republican policy these days, the cruelty is the point. Lying to people with nothing and dropping them on an island with scarce and expensive housing and no access to the promised resources is simply cruel. It’s the kind of thing you do if you enjoy other people’s suffering. As DeSantis and Abbott clearly do.

“They reported to me that these people got off the plane, men, women, and children from Venezuela, as they told me,” Rep. Bill Keating told CNN. “And they had a map or instructions in their hand where they would get housing and jobs. And it was a vacant parking lot, the destination.” It’s a juvenile prank mindset taken to a life-shattering, heavily resourced level.

Lisa Belcastro, head of the single homeless shelter on Martha’s Vineyard, echoed Keating’s point that these people were looking for jobs. “None of them wanted to come to Martha’s Vineyard. They’ve never heard of Martha’s Vineyard. This was a political move,” she said. “Not one person has asked for a handout; they have asked to work.”

“Exploiting vulnerable people for political stunts is repulsive and cruel. Massachusetts is fully capable of handling asylum seekers, and I'll keep working with local, state, and federal partners to ensure we have the necessary resources to care for people with dignity,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted.

According to state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, the state attorney general’s office is helping local officials find immigration attorneys for the migrants.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

House Republicans Introduce National Abortion Ban

Sen. Marco Rubio is—so far—the only Republican senator up for reelection who has signed on to Sen. Lindsey Graham’s national abortion ban. But there’s a House version of the bill, too, and Rep. Ted Budd, currently running for Senate in North Carolina, is one of that bill’s 84 cosponsors.

Cheri Beasley, Budd’s Democratic opponent, responded quickly. “My opponent Congressman Ted Budd co-sponsored the Republican bill to ban abortion nationwide,” she tweeted, “I was taught that actions speak louder than words – and Budd has shown that he WILL lead the charge to take away our personal freedoms as Senator. Full stop.”

Abortion is currently legal in North Carolina up to 20 weeks, down from the 24 or so weeks to the point of viability, which was the standard under Roe v. Wade. Graham’s 15-week ban would be a second curtailment of rights in the state.

According to an August poll done for Carolina Forward by Public Policy Polling, 27 percent of respondents thought that 20 weeks was “about right,” while 28 percent wanted fewer restrictions and 37 percent wanted more. That’s 55 percent who prefer something less restrictive than a 15-week ban. Which, again, Rep. Ted Budd, the Republican nominee for Senate in the state, has co-sponsored.

Rubio and Budd are in a position to have quickly gone on the official record in support of a national abortion ban. But every other Republican Senate candidate should be facing questions about what they would do if elected.

In Arizona, Blake Masters already answered the question: “Of course” he would vote for Graham’s national abortion ban. Masters may have already tried to back away from his most extreme abortion positions, but a 15-week federal ban is still within his new faux-moderate persona. Which only goes to show how extreme he really is.

Georgia’s Herschel Walker also came out in support of the national abortion ban, saying, “I believe the issue should be decided at the state level, but I would support this policy.”

Would Don Bolduc, the brand-new far-right nominee in New Hampshire, vote for Graham’s bill if he was elected to the Senate? He’s previously said he wouldn’t “vote contrary to pro-life.”

Would Mehmet Oz, Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee, vote for a national abortion ban? A campaign spokeswoman dodged the question on his behalf, saying, on the one hand, “Dr. Oz is pro-life with three exceptions: life of the mother, rape and incest,” but on the other hand, “And as a senator, he’d want to make sure that the federal government is not involved in interfering with the states’ decisions on the topic.” That’s conspicuously not a no.

What about Nevada’s Adam Laxalt? His campaign hasn't commented. Ohio’s J.D. Vance also seems to have kept his mouth shut on this issue since Graham introduced his bill.

A spokeswoman for Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson gave the top Republican nonanswer, saying, “As the senator has said many times he believes this is a profound moral issue and agrees with the Dobbs decision to allow the democratic process to unfold in each state to determine at what point does society has a responsibility to protect life.” But Johnson is the guy who originally suggested he would support a bill codifying marriage equality, then flipped, so his spokeswoman’s carefully noncommittal implication that he wouldn’t support Graham’s bill is definitely not anything to rely on.

Every one of these people, if elected, might well get a vote on a national abortion ban—they definitely would if Republicans take control of the Senate. And their answers on whether they’d vote for it range from “of course” to dodging to silence. Meanwhile, according to one poll, Americans oppose a 15-week abortion ban by a 27-point margin, 57 percent to 30 percent.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Lindsey Graham Introduces Bill For Nationwide Ban On Abortion

Republicans are struggling with the backlash against the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and a series of Republican-controlled states instituting harsh abortion bans. Voters are angry, and that anger has contributed to a reduction in Republican hopes for November’s midterm elections. So what are they doing about it? Well, Sen. Lindsey Graham is going to introduce a national 15-week abortion ban.

That’s one way to do things. Voters are angry that your party is banning abortion in the states? Go ahead and ban it nationally! Many in your party defended the Supreme Court’s move as backing states’ rights on this issue? Take it federal!

Graham’s move is a political calculation. He’s calling his 15-week abortion ban—which falls far short of Roe’s standard of viability, usually around 23 or 24 weeks—the “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act.” He thinks he can convince swing voters to hear “late-term abortions” and “pain-capable” and think, “This is a reasonable limit I can support in the name of compromise.”

But that’s presuming that voters will hear those words and not just “national abortion ban.” Or that they won’t see through the fact that what Graham proposes is a sharp cut from what had been the national standard for nearly five decades.

It’s also, of course, total bunk. Fetal pain is a big Republican talking point, but as applied to a 15-week ban, it’s simply a lie. Here’s what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has to say on the issue: “The science conclusively establishes that a human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after at least 24–25 weeks. Every major medical organization that has examined this issue and peer-reviewed studies on the matter have consistently reached the conclusion that abortion before this point does not result in the perception of pain in a fetus.”

Then there’s “late-term.” This is not a medical concept. “Late-term pregnancy” is a thing, meaning when a pregnancy goes past 40 weeks. But “late-term abortion” is a sneaky way to relate abortions performed past some indeterminate point—here, 15 weeks!—to actual late-term pregnancies. Fifteen weeks is also before the anatomical ultrasound at which many serious fetal anomalies, including many incompatible with life, are discovered.

It’s not hard to see what Graham thinks he is doing with this messaging bill that has no chance of passing in a Congress controlled by Democrats or being signed by a Democratic president. He’s trying to use the deceptive name of the bill to convince voters that Republicans just have reasonable goals when it comes to a national abortion ban. The thing is, Republicans haven’t given voters a lot of reason to trust them on this issue, given the harsh abortion bans in so many Republican-controlled states, and the horror stories coming out of those states of women denied care for miscarriages or pregnancies that threaten their health, or child rape victims forced to travel out of state for medical care. And Graham’s ban wouldn’t reinstitute abortion rights up to 15 weeks in the states with near-total bans—it would only limit abortion rights where they currently exist.

It is also, of course, a huge betrayal of everything Republicans have said about states’ rights. Here's Graham himself, just last month: “I think states should decide the issue of marriage and states should decide the issue of abortion.” It isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a surprise that Graham is a giant liar on this front, but it’s another reminder that the implication that Republicans just want to pass this oh-so-reasonable “Protecting Pain-Capable Unborn Children from Late-Term Abortions Act” isn’t just a lie when it comes to the name of the bill, it’s a lie about their larger ambitions. They’re just getting started with this, and yes, Republicans want a national abortion ban.

Republican candidates across the country are frantically backpedaling on their extreme opposition to abortion, and here come Senate Republicans to remind voters that yes, Republicans really do want to ban abortion. Thanks, I guess?

But that’s the message to voters. “Republicans want a national abortion ban.” It’s really that simple.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Queen Elizabeth II, 96, Dies Peacefully In Presence Of Family

Queen Elizabeth II has died at 96 after a 70-year reign, Buckingham Palace announced Thursday. Earlier in the day, the queen was reported to be under “medical supervision,” after months of declining mobility and missed engagements. Elizabeth’s family traveled to Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where she has long spent her summers, as the news of her rapidly declining health emerged.

At the time Elizabeth was born, in 1926, her father was the Duke of York, but he took the throne after his older brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated. King George VI died in 1952, and his daughter became queen, and, eventually, the longest-reigning British monarch. Married for 73 years to Philip Mountbatten, she had four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; Princess Anne; Prince Andrew; and Prince Edward. As a teenaged princess, Elizabeth enlisted in the British armed forces to serve as a mechanic, living under German bombardment and the threat of invasion rather than flee to Canada as some had advised. She celebrated in the streets with ordinary citizens on V-E Day in 1945.

The queen’s death comes at a time of turmoil for Great Britain. Just this week, Liz Truss became prime minister after Boris Johnson was forced out by a series of scandals. Inflation is high in the United Kingdom, and expected to peak this fall. The country faces a major labor shortage. Whatever you think of monarchy in general or Britain’s in particular, Queen Elizabeth II has been a defining figure in the life of the nation for 70 years.

She will be succeeded by Prince Charles, himself already 73 years old.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Most Americans See 'MAGA Republicans' As Threat To Democracy

Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans are undermining U.S. democracy—and the American public sees him.

According to a new poll from Reuters/Ipsos, 58 percent of respondents, “including one in four Republicans—said Trump's ‘Make America Great Again’ movement is threatening America's democratic foundations.”

A majority of the Republicans surveyed said they don’t think Trump and his MAGA movement represent their party. They’re going to need to start acting on that, then, because right now it’s not really showing. More than half of Republican gubernatorial nominees have sought to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. Same goes for secretary of state nominees in six states, attorney general nominees in four states, Senate nominees in seven states, and House nominees in 20 states. At least 60 percent of voters will see an election-denier on their ballot this November.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll also showed how effectively the media is creating the narrative that both sides are divisive: “Fifty-nine percent of respondents said Biden's speech will further divide the country, though just about half of respondents said they didn't watch or follow the speech at all.” Got that? More people have an opinion about the speech—one that echoes the media narrative—than even followed it a little bit. Well done, priests of the church of both sides did it!

We’re so screwed unless all those Republican election-deniers on the November ballot are soundly defeated.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Public Approval Of Unions At Highest Point Since 1965, Again

Public support for unions is at its highest level since 1965, according to Gallup’s annual pre-Labor Day survey. And if that headline sounds familiar, it’s because last year Gallup also found the highest public support for unions since 1965.

In 2021, 68 percent of people surveyed said they approved of labor unions. In 2022, 71 percent said they approved. That’s a “statistically similar” number, as Gallup puts it, but before the pandemic, the number was 64 percent. That’s part of an ongoing trend in the right direction: “Support for labor unions was highest in the 1950s, when three in four Americans said they approved,” Gallup notes. “Support only dipped below the 50% mark once, in 2009, but has improved in the 13 years since and now sits at a level last seen nearly 60 years ago.”

Recent years have seen a series of teacher uprisings against education budget cuts and low wages—teachers face a significant pay penalty in comparison with other equivalently educated workers—and, this year, a remarkable string of union wins at Starbucks along with one enormous win at Amazon. The COVID-19 pandemic also spurred many workers to reconsider their relationships with their work and their employers, as workers dubbed “essential” early in the pandemic soon saw themselves treated as disposable and workers faced the competing pressures of care work, health and safety, and the demands of their employers.

Over the past decade-plus, unions have also led fights for policies like an increased minimum wage and paid leave—extremely successful initiatives at the state level, even if those policies remain stalled at the federal level—that benefit all workers, not just union members. Even if you don’t pay attention to the data showing that unions reduce economic inequality, the old right-wing attacks on unions as purely self-interested very obviously don’t hold water.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Secret Service Ignored Threat To Speaker Pelosi Before January 6

The Secret Service knew about a threat to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi days ahead of the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol—but didn’t pass the information along to the United States Capitol Police until the attack was already underway, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington reports.

“January 6 starts #1776 all over again…Fight for EVERYTHING,” a Parler user not named by CREW posted on December 31, 2020, in a post discovered by the Secret Service on Jan. 4, 2021. That line was accompanied by an “enemies” list with Pelosi’s name on it.

“Biden will die shortly after being elected,” a January 2 post from the same account read. “Patriots are gonna tear his head off. Prison is his best case scenario.”

And the next day: “We’re all on a mission to save America. Lone wolf attacks are the way to go. Stay anonymous. Stay alive. Guns up Patriots!!”

It took until 5:55 PM on January 6 for the Secret Service to send the post with Pelosi’s name in it to the Capitol Police. By that time, law enforcement had been fighting off the attack by a mob of insurrectionists for hours. They knew Pelosi was at risk, and she had been moved for her safety.

This is far from the first indication that a host of law enforcement agencies fell down on the job in the lead-up to January 6. They had warnings. These social media posts filled with threats were … social media posts. They were available. What, though, is going on at the Secret Service?

First, the Secret Service denied former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s account of Donald Trump furiously demanding to be taken to the Capitol and attempting to wrest control of a vehicle from the Secret Service driver. There was supposedly going to be sworn testimony contradicting Hutchinson. Instead, the relevant agents and staff stopped cooperating and lawyered up. Worse, the Secret Service had deleted text messages from Jan. 6, and they apparently can’t be recovered.

The missing text messages showed the Secret Service to be complicit in a cover-up of Trump’s behavior during the attack on the Capitol. The fact that they didn’t turn the threat against Pelosi over to the Capitol Police when they found it—and that they were warned by a Mike Pence aide of threats to Pence as well—suggests that the cover-up wasn’t the only thing the Secret Service was complicit in. Either way, it’s time to clean house.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Feds Seek To Shield 'Highly Classified' Papers Removed From Mar-A-Lago

In a Monday court filing, the Justice Department asked a federal court not to unseal the affidavit showing probable cause for the warrant to search Mar-a-Lago, giving reasons that underscore the hot water Donald Trump appears to be in.

Disclosing the affidavit now would, according to the filing, “cause significant and irreparable damage to this ongoing criminal investigation.” It would do that by revealing, “among other critically important and detailed investigative facts: highly sensitive information about witnesses, including witnesses interviewed by the government; specific investigative techniques; and information required by law to be kept under seal.”

That’s not all: “The fact that this investigation implicates highly classified materials further underscores the need to protect the integrity of the investigation and exacerbates the potential for harm if information is disclosed to the public prematurely or inappropriately.

The Justice Department argued to the court that, if the affidavit were released, it would require extensive redactions—that, in fact, “the affidavit cannot responsibly be unsealed in a redacted form absent redactions that would be so extensive as to render the document devoid of content that would meaningfully enhance the public’s understanding of these events beyond the information already now in the public record.” But if it wasn’t redacted to that extent, according to the government, that’s where the integrity of the investigation, the need to obscure information relating to highly classified materials, and the need to protect the identities of the agents and witnesses involved could all be compromised.

The Justice Department is not here to play—not that we thought it was once Mar-a-Lago was searched.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Maternal And Infant Mortality Are Highest In 'Pro-Life' Red States

Valuing life is the official reason for abortion bans, but on measure after measure, the states banning abortion show just how little they really value life.

After Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves claimed that his state’s successful battle to overturn Roe v. Wade was “always about creating a culture of life,” we took a close look at Mississippi: Highest infant mortality rate. Highest homicide rate. Highest firearm mortality rate. Lowest life expectancy at birth.

But it’s not just Mississippi. The New York Times has a look at a range of ways states can support children and mothers, and states that are banning abortion come out worse on just about all of them than do states that are not likely to ban abortion.

Outcomes on which the 24 current or likely abortion ban states are worse than the 20 states unlikely to ban abortion:

  • The infant mortality rate in states banning or expected to soon ban abortion is 6.3 per 1,000 births. In states that aren’t going to ban abortion, it’s 4.7 per 1,000.
  • The maternal mortality rate in the ban states is 25.2 per 1,000, compared with 15 per 1,000 in states that won’t ban abortion.
  • 18.5 percent of children live in poverty in the ban states, compared with 14.8 percent in the no-ban states.
  • 15.7 percent of women of reproductive age are uninsured in the ban states, compared with nine percent in the no-ban states.
  • It’s 7.2 percent to 3.6 percent for uninsured children—that’s double.
  • 8.8 percent of babies in the ban states are born with low birth weights, compared with 7.7 percent in the no-ban states.
  • There are 21.2 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 in abortion ban states, compared with 12.1 per 1,000 in no-ban states.

Alongside those outcomes are some striking policy differences: Not one of the states banning abortion has paid family leave. Eleven states that won’t be banning abortion have paid family leave. Every single one of the latter has expanded Medicaid, while just 15 of the 24 abortion ban states have done so. All but one of the no-ban states have minimum wages above the federal level of $7.25 an hour, while just eight of the ban states do. Both groups of states include six that have universal pre-K, though that’s a larger percentage of the no-ban states.

None of the state lawmakers who have pushed through and supported abortion bans can seriously claim that their states’ governance reflects a priority on life. The numbers are clear.

Even if every one of these states had 100 percent insurance rates and the lowest infant mortality and maternal mortality in the world, forcing people to carry pregnancies and give birth against their will would be a moral outrage. But there really should be a rule that anytime a lawmaker is quoted opposing abortion, they should be identified with the infant and maternal mortality rates of their states and with any votes they have made to support or oppose things like expanding health care or establishing paid family leave or reducing child poverty.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Alito Delivers Partisan Speech Warning Of His Post-Roe Targets

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito made a big splash with his first public remarks since eviscerating abortion rights in the United States. Alito’s comments—made at a legal conference in Rome—mocking the world leaders who spoke out against the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade drew the most attention, but he also offered a screaming warning about his intentions for future decisions.

“I had the honor this term of writing, I think, the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders—who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law,” Alito said, before going on to single out British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (joking, “he paid the price”) and Prince Harry (not actually a leader).

This was striking, for sure. “Alito apparently didn’t see the need to come across as a dispassionate and fair-minded justice,” Steve Benen wrote of the comments. “Rather, his audience saw a politician giving a political speech, deriding other politicians who dared to disagree with him, and patting himself on the back for having succeeded on a political goal.”

It’s not the first time, either. Benen pointed to a string of past speeches Alito has given that have each seemed surprisingly political for a Supreme Court justice. It’s almost like Alito is operating as a partisan. And now, with his latest speech, he’s telling the world that he does not care that his decision singlehandedly damaged the Supreme Court’s standing with Americans or the world. Since Alito’s decision in Dobbs, support has grown for reforming the court, while its favorability has plummeted.

But not only is Alito mocking the outrage over what he’s already done, he sent a signal about what he’s prepared to do, railing against “hostility to religion” and saying, “ultimately, if we are going to win the battle to protect religious freedom in an increasingly secular society, we will need more than positive law.”

Looking at those comments, legal analyst Chris Geidner tweeted, “When Sam Alito says something like this, that's a sign that the fundamental ways the Supreme Court majority has already eviscerated the Establishment Clause in favor of the Free Exercise Clause are just the first steps he wants the court to take.”

What Alito is telling us with his mockery, his arrogance, his absolute lack of pretense that he’s equally weighing free exercise of religion with other rights, is that he doesn’t care. He’s here as a political figure and he’s going to shape the country’s laws to fit his political preferences as long as he has that power. Senate Democrats should take this as a dare, and they should step up with the reforms the nation’s voters are already embracing.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

GOP Senators Appear At USO Photo Op, Then Vote Down Vets Health Care

Oh, this is perfect. Immediately before they voted against health care for veterans affected by toxic exposure during their service, several Senate Republicans tweeted about how excited they were to join the USO to assemble care packages for members of the military.

Sens. Rick Scott, Mitt Romney, and Cindy Hyde-Smith all made care packages for the military for at least long enough for a photo op, then tweeted about how grateful they were for the opportunity, and how much they support the troops. Then they went and voted against the PACT Act, a bill that had passed the Senate 84-14 just weeks ago before coming back this week for a minor tweak. The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (or PACT) Act extends health coverage for 23 respiratory illnesses and cancers potentially caused by burn pits where millions of veterans were exposed to those toxins.

Republicans shifted against the PACT Act because Democrats announced a plan for a completely unrelated bill: the reconciliation deal with Sen. Joe Manchin to invest in clean energy and health care while raising some corporate taxes. That’s what it took for them to go from being so grateful to the USO for the opportunity to assemble care packages for service members to voting to deny health care to veterans for conditions related to their time in the military.

Comedian Jon Stewart, who has become a dedicated advocate for veterans, skewered Scott at a Thursday press conference.

“It’s beautiful,” Stewart said, dripping with sarcasm. “Did you get the package? I think it has M&M’s in it, and some cookies and some moist towelettes.”

“None of them care—except to tweet,” he added. “Boy, they’ll tweet it. Can’t wait to see what they come up with on Veterans Day, on Memorial Day. Well, this is the reality of it.”

“We’ve seen partisanship and games within Congress for years,” Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, was quoted by NBC News. “But what is shocking is that so many senators would literally be willing to play with veterans’ lives so openly like this.

“They’re manufacturing reasons to vote against legislation that they literally voted for just last month,” Butler continued. “And so it’s really a new level of low.”

After they blocked the bill, some Senate Republicans celebrated with fist bumps and handshakes:

The PACT Act, if Republicans ever allow it to pass, will extend coverage to 3.5 million veterans.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Worker Injuries And Deaths From Heat Far Worse Than Estimates, Study Shows

Heat deaths in the U.S. peak in July and August, and as that period kicks off, a new report from Public Citizen highlights heat as a major workplace safety issue. With basically every year breaking heat records thanks to climate change, this is only going to get worse without significant action to protect workers from injury and death.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration admits that government data on heat-related injury, illness, and death on the job are “likely vast underestimates.” Those vast underestimates are “about 3,400 workplace heat-related injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work per year from 2011 to 2020” and an average of 40 fatalities a year. Looking deeper, Public Citizen found, “An analysis of more than 11 million workers’ compensation injury reports in California from 2001 through 2018 found that working on days with hotter temperatures likely caused about 20,000 injuries and illnesses per year in that state, alone—an extraordinary 300 times the annual number injuries and illnesses that California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) attributes to heat.”

Extrapolating from that would suggest more like 170,000 heat-related workplace injuries and illnesses every year. Similarly, looking past the official fatality data, Public Citizen estimates as many as 2,000 workplace heat deaths each year. And heat can contribute invisibly to injury rates, as workers whose bodies are stressed are more likely to have falls and other causes of injury.

The workers most at risk are the most vulnerable workers—low-income workers, people of color, immigrants, and especially undocumented immigrants. The lowest-paid 20% of workers account for five times as many heat-related injuries as the highest-paid 20%, and “A recent review by Columbia Journalism Investigations of records relating to workplace heat injuries—including workplace inspection reports, death investigation files, depositions, court records, and police reports—found that since 2010, Hispanics/Latinos have accounted for a third of all heat-related fatalities, despite representing only 18% of the U.S. workforce.”

This is in part because the industries in which heat-related problems are most common are disproportionately Black and brown: farming, warehouse work, certain kinds of construction, food preparation, and more. These workers are also less likely to have health insurance or worker's compensation to help them when they do get sick or injured.

Public Citizen is calling on OSHA to issue an emergency temporary heat safety standard while it works through the long process of getting to a final rule on heat. Such a standard should include temperature thresholds, lower workloads during dangerous heat, indoor and outdoor cooling, hydration, training, record-keeping, non-retaliation requirements, and an emergency action plan in affected workplaces.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.