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New report warns of Bill Barr's devious voter suppression gambit

October 9, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

With one national poll after another showing President Donald Trump losing to former Vice President Joe Biden in November, the president and Attorney General William Barr continue to obsess over “voter fraud.” They baselessly claim the crime is promoted by mail-in voting, despite its history as a reliable practice. Journalist Pema Levy pointed out that Barr’s actions are part of a long a seedy history in an article published in Mother Jones this week, describing them as thinly veiled attempts at voter suppression.

“A pattern has emerged in recent years that’s easy to spot,” Levy explains. “Right before an election, Republican officials in battleground states announce voter fraud investigations. The goal is obvious: suppressing turnout. But what’s new this year is that this underhanded tactic is being employed by the president and the Justice Department.”

Levy cites Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp as an example of a Republican who has used bogus voter fraud claims to suppress turnout, recalling that only two days before the 2018 midterms, Kemp — who was Georgia’s secretary of state before becoming governor — “came out with an explosive announcement: he was investigating the state Democratic Party for attempting to hack into the state’s voter registration system.”

“At the time, Kemp was both the state’s top election official and the Republican nominee for governor in a dead-heat race against Democrat Stacey Abrams,” Levy notes. “Kemp had a history of bogus voter fraud allegations against his political opponents, and many recognized the brazen tactic this time. Election law expert Rick Hasen called it ‘perhaps the most outrageous example of election administration partisanship in the modern era’ and ‘banana republic stuff.’”

But in May 2020, Levy adds, Georgia’s Republican attorney general “confirmed what was suspected all along: there was no evidence of any crime.” Republicans, Levy stresses, “have a long history of making false allegations of voter fraud, only to see their accusations fall apart once scrutinized. But airing such charges right before an election threatens to destabilize and delegitimize it.”

This year, according to Levy, one is seeing “an increase in fraud allegations from the Justice Department itself — and it appears to be part of Barr’s ongoing effort to transform the (DOJ) into an arm of the Trump campaign, ready to engage in a longstanding GOP voter suppression tactic.”

Barr, Levy warns, is showing that he is ready to “possibly aid the Trump campaign’s legal efforts …read more


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Trump's resignation would save countless lives

October 9, 2020 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

by Tom Weis

According him more compassion than he has shown others who have died due to his malicious negligence, I wish President Trump a full recovery from COVID-19, even though he brought this on himself through his wanton recklessness. Most people did not. Most people who have contracted the deadly disease would not share Trump’s view that it is a “blessing from God.”

When faced with the biggest test of his presidency, Donald Trump failed the American people in just about every way imaginable. Despite being the wealthiest nation on earth, the United States leads the world in COVID-related deaths. Every day, more innocent Americans die from the coronavirus who didn’t have to die, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Donald Trump could perform a great public service and save countless lives by immediately resigning.

Almost seven months after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a public health emergency—with hundreds of Americans dying daily—we still have no coordinated national response to the pandemic. In fact, we don’t even have empathy. Instead, we are served up shrugs (“It is what it is“) and cold-hearted chaos by design. It’s every state for itself, all in the myopic hope that the economy will somehow rebound just enough in time to re-elect Trump & Co. Donald Trump treats the American people—including his loyal supporters—as expendable resources to be exploited for his personal and political gain. He doesn’t care about us. It’s all about him. A president who values his own ambitions more than the lives and safety of the American people is not morally fit to lead.

No fan of former President George W. Bush, I am surprised to find myself quoting one of his former speechwriters, David Frum, but facts are facts: “That the pandemic occurred is not Trump’s fault. The utter unpreparedness of the United States for a pandemic is Trump’s fault. The loss of stockpiled respirators to breakage because the federal government let maintenance contracts lapse in 2018 is Trump’s fault. The failure to store sufficient protective medical gear in the national arsenal is Trump’s fault. Air travelers summoned home and forced to stand for hours …read more


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Trump plans his next White House superspreader event for Saturday

October 9, 2020 in Blogs

By Daily Kos

Nose-to-the-grindstone Donald Trump is getting back to his mission: personally spreading the coronavirus to as many Americans as humanly possible.

So even as the White House continues to dodge all questions concerning Trump’s COVID-19 status, Trump is planning an event Saturday (yes, Oct. 10!) with hundreds of people for “his first in-person event since he announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus,” reports The New York Times.

Enticing! Who exactly will show nobody knows, since most of Trump’s besties are still sidelined following his last coronavirus bash two weeks ago. But Trump will reportedly reprise his triumphant “Covita” return from Walter Reed Medical Center earlier this week.

The president was expected to make remarks from one of the balconies at the White House to the crowd, which was expected to include people attending an event elsewhere in Washington staged by a Trump supporter, Candace Owens, one of the people familiar with the plans said.

One person who clearly won’t be there is GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who told reporters Thursday he had deliberately steered clear of the White House since August since it was clearly a COVID-19 hot zone in the making based on its lax protocols.

Nonetheless, Trump deftly sidestepped McConnell on the way to infecting several members of the Senate Republican caucus, hobbling the U.S. military’s top brass and turning the White House into one of the “most dangerous places in the country,” as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it. Tragically, Trump’s superspreader event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett may have also sent the virus back to Barrett’s community, where one teacher and two students recently tested positive at the small private school in South Bend, Indiana, which is attended by some of Barrett’s children.

Anyway, things could change. As of yesterday, Trump was also planning a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. As of today, he wasn’t. And after calling off coronavirus relief negotiations a couple days ago, Trump is now demanding the biggest, bestest deal ever.

So, yeah, Trump’s not well. Things could change.

…read more


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Republicans' key electoral coalition appears to be 'in danger of coming apart'

October 9, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

During the 1980s and 1990s, political pundits used the term “Solid South” to refer to the seemingly impenetrable red wall that Republicans had achieved in southern states — which was a big departure from the years in which that term referred to all the southern states that allied themselves with the Democratic Party. Now, the Republican Party finds itself losing ground in the Sun Belt, and that shift is the focus of a New York Times article by reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.

The piece not only describes the ground that Republicans have been losing in parts of the Deep South, but also, in southwestern states like Arizona — which has evolved into a swing state after being heavily Republican for generations.

“Nowhere has [President Donald] Trump harmed himself and his party more than across the Sun Belt, where the electoral coalition that secured a generation of Republican dominance is in danger of coming apart,” Martin and Burns explain.

Certainly, some of the southern states are still deeply Republican, including Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. But Florida has been a swing state. Meanwhile, Texas and Georgia are two Sun Belt states that could be described as “light red” rather than “deep red” at this point, and recent polls indicate that both states are in play for former Vice President Joe Biden in this year’s presidential election.

Martin and Burns cite Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as one of the reasons why Biden is competitive in both the southeastern and southwestern parts of the Sun Belt.

“Many of the Sun Belt states seemingly within Mr. Biden’s reach resisted the most stringent public-health policies to battle the coronavirus,” the Times reporters note. “As a result, states like Arizona, Georgia and Texas faced a powerful wave of infections for much of the summer, setting back efforts to revive commercial activity.”

Two of the Republicans who candidly discussed the GOP’s problems in the Sun Belt are former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Oklahoma City Mayor David F. Holt. Flake, a conservative who has endorsed Biden, said of Trump, “There are limits to what people can take with the irresponsibility, the untruthfulness, just the whole persona.” And Holt told the Times, “Cities in states like Arizona and Texas are attracting young people, highly-educated people and people of color — all groups that the national Republican Party has walked away from the last four …read more


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Trump getting COVID is the quintessential October Surprise for science denial

October 9, 2020 in Blogs

By AlterNet

by Steve Horn

This piece first appeared at The Real News Network.

Back in 2012, climate science denial created an “October Surprise” moment for the presidential election and a turning point against the presidential prospects of Republican candidate Mitt Romney. In 2020 science denial is again a game changer, this time for Republican President Donald Trump, who has continued to downplay COVID-19′s seriousness, even after he was hospitalized for the disease which has killed more than 210,000 Americans.

A month before Hurricane Sandy reached landfall first in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and then New York City, killing 37 people in New Jersey and 44 in New York, and causing $70 billion worth of damage, Romney downplayed the threat of the climate crisis.

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans,” said Romney, pausing to do a clearly scripted lip bite, as if to stop himself from laughing along with the audience. “And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”

On Oct. 31, just two days after the hurricane’s landfall, the now-defunct group Forecast the Facts released an advertisement titled “Romney vs. Sandy.” It got hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, a huge haul for a climate video, and aired in key swing state TV markets.

Romney vs. Sandy

“Mitt Romney must hope we forgot that he mocked climate change at the Republican National Convention, to the raucous cheers and applause of the GOP delegates,” Brad Johnson, then a campaign manager for the group Forecast the Facts and now a progressive political consultant based in Washington, DC, said at the time in a press release introducing the video. “We didn’t forget. We’re putting out this video to remind every voter struck by Sandy that Mitt Romney thinks the poisoning of our weather is a joke.”

RL Miller, then an independent climate activist and today a member of the Democratic National Committee and executive director of the group Climate Hawks Vote, explains that Romney’s rhetoric parallels Trump’s downplaying of the novel coronavirus in recent days, weeks and months.

Johnson, who helped to create the 2012 ad and move it through the blogosphere, said he believes what links 2012 and 2020 together is …read more


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When a Fallen Mexican American War Hero Was Denied a Wake, a Civil Rights Push Began

October 9, 2020 in History

By Iván Román

After a Texas funeral home refused to let Felix Longoria’s family use its chapel in 1949, Senator Lyndon Johnson stepped in.

“The whites won’t like it.”

When a small-town Texas funeral home, using these words, refused to hold a wake for decorated World War II veteran Felix Longoria, the ensuing controversy sent the fight for Mexican American civil rights soaring onto the national stage—with some help from a rising U.S. senator named Lyndon Johnson.

Private Longoria, a Mexican American soldier from Three Rivers, Texas, was flushing out Japanese soldiers retreating from the island of Luzon in the Philippines when a sniper cut him down just months before the end of World War II. His heroic actions posthumously earned him the Purple Heart and other military medals.

It took the U.S. Army four years to get his body back home to Three Rivers. When his widow Beatriz Longoria went to make arrangements at the town’s only funeral home, they offered to bury him in the “Mexican section” of the cemetery, segregated by barbed wire. But they told Mrs. Longoria the wake could not be held in the funeral parlor because it would anger the town’s white citizens.

The local Mexican American community and its many World War II veterans, tired of being treated like second-class citizens, were incensed. Dr. Hector Garcia, chair of the new veterans’ civil rights group American G.I. Forum, fired off letters and telegrams to state and local officials condemning discrimination against a Mexican American soldier who had given his life serving his country. He sent another telegram to U.S. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson on January 10, 1949.

At a protest meeting the next night, which drew some 1,000 people, Senator Johnson’s swift response, which arrived via telegram, was read: “I deeply regret to learn that the prejudice of some individuals extends even beyond this life,” Johnson wrote. “This injustice…is deplorable.”

The freshman senator went on to say that he had arranged for Longoria to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery—making him the first of the estimated 450,000 Mexican Americans who fought in World War II to receive this honor. At the interment, on February 16, 1949, Johnson, his wife “Lady Bird” and a representative of President Harry Truman stood beside Longoria’s family as military musicians played “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

The discrimination Longoria had faced, even in death, made national headlines. Columnist Walter Winchell, …read more


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How Hammurabi Transformed Babylon Into a Powerful City-State

October 9, 2020 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

The ancient Babylonian king ruled with military and diplomatic finesse—and he also knew a thing or two about self-promotion.

More than 3,800 years after he took power, the ancient Babylonian king Hammurabi is best remembered for the . In quick succession, he moved on Eschnunna in the east, Assyria to the north, Larsa to the south and Mari in the west.

Hammurabi had a deft, though duplicitous, way of combining force and diplomacy, As the Ancient History Encyclopedia details, he would form alliances with other rulers, and then break them whenever it was convenient to do so.

He also waged warfare in devious ways. One of his tricks was to dam up a rival city’s water supply. Then he would either use thirst to pressure its leaders into surrendering, or else suddenly release the waters and cause a devastating flood that would soften his target for his attack.

Code of Hammurabi Remains a Legal Model

Backside of tablet with writings about the works realized by King Hammurabi (circa 1792-1750 B.C.).

Hammurabi’s elaborate legal code covered matters ranging from building safety and inheritances to the discipline of slaves and the fees that ancient veterinarians should be paid for operating on oxen and donkeys.

It wasn’t the first legal system, and as Diamond points out, Hammurabi actually included laws created by previous kings. But what resonated was the idea of a society built upon the principle of law and order—applied to everyone.

“There are many laws that today we would categorize as harsh or barbaric, but there are others that suggest care and responsibility for marginalized groups,” Diamond explains.

Hammurabi’s legal system included features that are familiar today, such as the principle that evidence had to be gathered and proof established in order to convict someone of a crime. “The ‘innocent until proven guilty’ theme still resonates with us,” Diamond says. Additionally, it provides for what might have been the first alimony payments.

Hammurabi as a Benevolent Ruler

In some ways, the Code of Hammurabi also was a public relations tool, a way for the king to subtly hype himself as a wise, benevolent ruler. To that end, a surviving example of Hammurabi’s stone pillars depicts him meeting with Shamash, the Babylonians’ god of Justice.

“There is little doubt that Hammurabi wanted to be perceived as a just ruler who protected his citizens, in addition to a surrogate for the gods on Earth, …read more