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(956 posts)
Fri Apr 5, 2024, 09:13 PM Apr 5

Friday Talking Points -- Shake, Rattle, And Roll

Living in California means not being generally surprised by earthquakes, but we realize that this is simply not so in New York City and the Northeast in general. So when a 4.8 temblor hit New Jersey, we certainly could sympathize. However, it seems East Coast tectonic zones have a certain personality trait that goes (we can't resist) right down to the bedrock? Here was the tweet that the "USGS Earthquakes" account put out this morning:

Earthquakes are uncommon but not unheard of along the Atlantic Coast, a zone one study called a "passive-aggressive margin" b/c there's no active plate boundary between the Atlantic & N. American plates, but there are stresses. Did you feel the NJ quake?

"Passive-aggressive"? We are going to exhibit a mighty amount of restraint here, and leave it to everyone else to suggest their own jokes in response to that. No, really... we're just going to sit here and not type... in the dark... all by ourselves... while you go out and have your fun, don't worry about us....

Heh. Seems we couldn't resist, after all!

Geological/psychological kidding aside, there was at least one political announcement this week which we suppose qualifies as "earth-shaking." The group No Labels, one week after the death of co-founder Joe Lieberman, announced that they will not be running a third-party presidential ticket in 2024, after spending tens of millions of dollars (of other people's money) preparing to do just that. This is incredibly good news for the effort to re-elect President Joe Biden, since it would have been a wild card in what is shaping up to be a very close race.

Of course, Robert F. Kennedy Junior is still running, and he spent the week as he always does, making one insane statement after another.

In other mentally-unbalanced news, President Joe Biden began the week being attacked by Republicans for: (1) not having godlike powers over the Christian calendar, and (2) a regulation that has been in place since the 1970s, which includes each and every year of Donald Trump's term. In both instances, Republicans were sure that Biden had somehow been the instigator for these things -- and in both cases, he was not. This, of course, didn't stop Republicans from falsely accusing him of nefariousness. It got so bad the White House had to invite the Easter Bunny himself to the podium of the White House briefing room to explain it all (well, we made up that reason, but the video is still pretty amusing to watch).

Monday was, of course, "Everyone Act Like A Republican Day"... which (ahem) was also a mere quirk of the calendar with another holiday. We have to say, though, we didn't hear very many good April Fool's jokes from politicians, seeing as how this was the best of the lot:

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) claimed to have grown back his long-lost fingers. For those unfamiliar with the bit, the senator only has seven fingers due to a farming accident... usually.

By week's end, Biden was in Baltimore to view the wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and the progress being made to get the shipping channel back open again. Republicans, as usual, are quick to demand federal disaster money when tragedy strikes in their home states but balk at providing the same to blue states, so they're already signalling they'll be making their own demands to be included in any emergency funding bill in the coming days.

Congress is still out on one of their generous vacations, but will return next week with a full plate of all sorts of bizarre things to do (as well as the serious work of governing, which continues to seem beyond their abilities, no matter how many weeks of vacation they take). The Senate will be starting the impeachment trial of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, which (hopefully) will end before it even begins. The House, meanwhile, may devolve into another Hunger Games-style free-for-all, if Marjorie Taylor Greene moves forward with her plan to force a "motion to vacate the chair." Speaker Mike Johnson may be about to cross the Rubicon with the Chaos Caucus, as he's made noises about actually bringing some sort of Ukraine aid bill up for a vote -- which will send the hotheads into an incandescent rage. So there's all that to look forward to.

Florida had their own sort of legal/political shakeup this week, as their state supreme court ruled that all the Draconian abortion bans the Republicans have passed there can go into effect, but also (quite surprisingly) that the state's voters will be able to weigh in via a proposed constitutional amendment which will now appear on their November ballots. As we hasten to point out, though, it will need a 60-percent supermajority to pass, so that's a pretty steep hill in an increasingly-red state.

Democrats didn't let that stop them from openly salivating about the possibility of amping up turnout and possibly scoring some big political upsets in November, but this may be runaway optimism, we'll have to see. What most news stories don't also mention is that the state supreme court also greenlighted a ballot measure which would legalize recreational marijuana use for adults, which also could serve to drive up turnout for certain voters (Democratic and otherwise).

In related international news, Germany became the largest country in Europe to legalize recreational marijuana use. It's not just here at home where the War On Weed is coming to an end, which is a rather positive thing to see.

As usual, we've got to check in with all the "Trump's legal woes" news, and this week there certainly was a lot of it.

The judge in the New York porn-star hush-money case expanded his gag order on Trump to also cover his own family, and Trump responded by attempting to push the boundaries of this restriction -- which he will continue to do right up until the no-nonsense judge smacks him down. Trump's trial is still set to begin on April 15th, as the judge denied a motion to delay the case on "presidential immunity" grounds (until after the U.S. Supreme Court gets around to addressing the issue in a different case). So we are a little more than a week away from seeing the first ex-president ever sitting in the dock of a criminal court case.

Also in New York, Trump posted his (reduced) $175 million bond to cover his appeal, but the company providing the bond is based in California, so its validity is now being challenged by the state attorney.

We saw somewhat of a showdown down in Florida, as Special Counsel Jack Smith answered the judge in the national security documents case with a scathing takedown of what the judge had requested, where Smith all but guaranteed he is on the brink of appealing on the grounds of what might be called legal ineptitude. She countered back by essentially ruling for Smith (on the question of whether Trump can claim the Presidential Records Act somehow gives him magic powers to legally keep nuclear secrets in a bathroom at his golf club after he left office or not, which is laughable) -- but she did so in a weaselly way that may allow Trump to make this (inane) argument to the jury. As time goes by, more and more legal experts are urging Smith to just go to the appeals court and try to get the judge removed from the case for showing (1) judicial incompetence, and (2) pro-Trump bias (Trump appointed her to her seat at the very end of his presidential term).

In Georgia, the judge in Trump's election-interference RICO case denied Trump's motion to toss all the charges out because he had some sort of First Amendment right to commit crimes and encourage others to commit crimes as well.

All around, it wasn't a great week for Trump's various cases.

It also wasn't a particularly great week for Trump on the stock market either, as his pet media company took a nosedive when they 'fessed up to the fact that they had only made $4 million last year, while losing a whopping $58 million at the same time. The stock lost 20 percent of its value in one day, which translated to Trump losing a cool billion dollars.

To make up for it, Trump's daughter-in-law Lara (now helping run the Republican National Committee) told people who were too poor to donate $5 to Trump to "save up" so they could donate later. Because grifters gotta grift, right?

We have two amusing items to close on. The first is to thank the Washington Post for assembling an exhaustive list of all the people who worked for Trump's White House -- including some top aides and his very own vice president -- who have now come out in various ways against Trump's re-election. Reading the list is sobering, but the sheer length of it is the most jaw-dropping part of all.

And finally, some amusing reactions by Democrats to a brand-new push from a handful of House Republicans to rename Washington's Dulles Airport after Donald Trump. The airport is in Virginia, so HuffPost went looking for comments from some Virginia Democrats. We leave you with the two best responses -- the first from Representative Gerry Connolly:

If Republicans want to name something after him, I'd suggest they find a federal prison.

And from Senator Tim Kaine:

April Fools was yesterday.

Before we get to the main award, we have to at least mention a rather unusual outcome in a California election from our general neck of the woods. California has a "jungle primary" system where only the top two candidates make it through the primary to appear on the general election ballot. But in one Silicon Valley seat in the House of Representatives, the voters will get three choices this November. Because while the Democratic frontrunner secured his spot on the ballot early in the counting, two other candidates (Evan Low and Joe Simitian) wound up in a perfect tie, with 30,249 votes each. By California's election law, they will both end up on the general election ballot, unless a recount happens to change things ever-so-slightly in one direction or the other. But neither candidate will likely demand a recount, since it could always go against them in the end. So file this under "sometimes, every vote does count," we suppose.

Moving on... we wrote about this effort earlier this week and we would sincerely like to see Senator Tina Smith at least force a vote on it in the Senate, because the days of just assuming the Supreme Court won't do anything crazy are obviously over for the foreseeable future.

Here's some of what we had to say earlier:

[T]he real subject of today's column... is an incredibly old and obscure federal law that has been on the books for 150 years and which now cries out for legislative action. Known as the "Comstock Act" (or "Law," or "Laws" ), this is a vestige of 19th-century Puritanism that has never explicitly been repealed in its entirety. And since it is still officially on the books, it is technically still federal law. Which was (rather ominously) pointed out during the recent arguments for yet another abortion case before the Supreme Court (the one dealing with one of the drugs in the standard medication abortion prescription). The two most conservative justices on the court openly flirted with citing the Comstock Act in order to take one of the abortion drugs off the market for everyone.

Senator Tina Smith -- who has a rather unique perspective in the Senate since she used to be a Planned Parenthood executive -- isn't just assuming that this long-ignored and long-unenforced law will continue to be seen as an archaic relic by the current Supreme Court. So she's leading the effort to repeal the law once and for all. Here is part of a New York Times editorial she wrote this week, explaining why this is so necessary:

Back in the 1860s, a former Civil War soldier from rural Connecticut named Anthony Comstock moved to New York City for work. He was shocked and appalled by what he found. Advertisements for contraception! Open discussions of sexual health! It all struck Comstock as terribly lewd and anti-Christian.

So he made it his mission to clean up society, creating the loftily named New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and gathering evidence for police raids on places that distributed material he thought was obscene or promoted indecent living. In the early 1870s he took his crusade to Washington, lobbying for federal legislation that would empower the post office to search for and seize anything in the mail that met Comstock's criteria for being "obscene," "lewd" or just plain "filthy." Morality, as determined by Comstock, would be the law of the land, and Comstock himself would be its enforcer, appointed by Congress as a special agent of the post office.

In a fit of Victorian puritanism, Congress passed the Comstock Act into law. But it quickly became apparent that Comstock's criteria were unworkably vague. In its broad wording, the law not only made it illegal to send pornography through the mail, it also outlawed the sending of medical textbooks for their depictions of the human body, personal love letters that hinted at physical as well as romantic relationships, and even news stories.

The whole thing was very silly and impracticable, and that's why the Comstock Act was relegated to the dustbin of history.

Senator Smith is right. The Comstock Act needs to be entirely repealed. And if Democrats don't start pushing the issue, then it never will be... and sooner or later five Supreme Court justices might decide it's time to enforce it again. This could end all abortions across the entire country, since it is not only patients who rely on the mails it is also doctors who perform medical abortions and/or prescribe abortion medication.

Maybe repealing the Comstock Act won't have a chance, in a Congress with a Republican House. Maybe it won't even make it through the Senate. But the American people deserve to see which Republicans vote against such a commonsense move, and that's never going to happen unless someone like Senator Smith pushes for it to happen.

For doing so, Senator Tina Smith is our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. Congress doing nothing about changing federal laws to accommodate abortion after Roe v. Wade is what led us into all this mess in the first place, so: "Oh, don't worry, that'll never happen" simply isn't a valid excuse for legislative inaction any more.

[Congratulate Senator Tina Smith on her Senate contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]

Once again, with Congress out and no enormous earth-shaking crises to speak of, we are happy to report that no Democrats seriously disappointed us this week. As always, feel free to make your own nominations in the comments, if you think there's someone who deserves one.

Volume 746 (4/5/24)

Another mixed bag, ending with our own snarky reaction to naming an airport after Trump. We do have to warn that two of these in the middle of this list are longish excerpts from other people, but we felt that both were important enough to include (in fact, we encourage everyone to click the links and read both of them in full). Either one can easily be turned into a Democratic talking point, which we leave as an exercise for the reader (since they're long enough as it is...).

Jobs, jobs, jobs

More good news on the employment front dropped today.

"For the 39th month in a row, the American economy added jobs last month -- over 300,000 of them. The last month where the American economy lost jobs was December of 2020 -- or Donald Trump's last full month in office. Since Joe Biden was sworn in, the economy has added a record-setting 15 million jobs, the highest number of any president in American history. The unemployment rate dropped last month and has now spent 26 months -- more than two years -- under four percent. That's something which hasn't happened since the 1960s. Wages are up, inflation is down, and Joe Biden has overseen the creation of 15 million jobs. That's a pretty stellar record to run on."

Republicans won't rest until abortion is banned everywhere

Hit this one constantly, since it works so well.

"The Republican Party simply will not rest until abortions are banned everywhere in America, folks. They don't want to talk about it on the campaign trail, since they're beginning to realize that this is not what the American public wants, but they continue working behind the scenes in every way they can to make any abortion anywhere illegal. They'll dig up 150-year-old laws and try to enforce them if they can't pass new laws now. Donald Trump says he's going to announce his policy on abortion 'next week,' which is his way of saying 'never.' Remember all the times he promised he'd reveal his wonderful replacement healthcare plan that he'd put in place after repealing Obamacare? Yeah, we're still waiting on that one. He wants to have it both ways on the issue, but you know as well as I do that he'd sign anything the Republicans in Congress put in front of him -- and they're on record supporting making abortion illegal from zero weeks with zero exceptions. Joe Biden is now running ads that sum the whole thing up the best, saying: 'Donald Trump doesn't trust women. I do.' Any woman or any man who wants to see women retain the freedom of bodily autonomy in America should vote for every Democrat on the ballot, because any Republican vote for any GOP candidate means moving us all closer to the day when Republicans ban abortion everywhere."

Short and to-the-point

For once, we have a very shot talking point this week (well, we thought we should counterbalance the next two, which are very long indeed).

The Senate is due to be sworn in as jurors for the impeachment trial of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas next week. The proper thing for Democrats (and the few Republicans who are also disgusted with the House's action) to do is to hold a vote before the trial even begins and just move on. There is nothing impeachable in the articles of impeachment the House sent over, so there is really only one response possible for Democratic senators to answer anyone who complains about shutting this perversion of impeachment down right from the start:

"When the House sends over a serious impeachment, then we will give it a serious trial. This didn't qualify, sorry."

No president has done worse

This next rather long excerpt comes from a recent editorial in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where Editor Chris Quinn explains why his newspaper has been accused of "demean[ing] the former president's supporters in describing his behavior as monstrous, insurrectionist and authoritarian." He writes in response to letters he has received, but bends over backwards not to insult any of the writers, knowing that: "No matter how I present it, I'll offend some thoughtful, decent people." But then he goes on to stand squarely for the truth and ends by warning that: "Our nation does seem to be slipping down the same slide that Germany did in the 1930s. Maybe the collapse of government in the hands of a madman is inevitable...."

It is an extraordinary editorial, and is worth reading in full, but here is his basic case:

The truth is that Donald Trump undermined faith in our elections in his false bid to retain the presidency. He sparked an insurrection intended to overthrow our government and keep himself in power. No president in our history has done worse.

This is not subjective. We all saw it. Plenty of leaders today try to convince the masses we did not see what we saw, but our eyes don't deceive. (If leaders began a yearslong campaign today to convince us that the Baltimore bridge did not collapse Tuesday morning, would you ever believe them?) Trust your eyes. Trump on Jan. 6 launched the most serious threat to our system of government since the Civil War. You know that. You saw it.

. . .

As for those who equate Trump and Joe Biden, that's false equivalency. Biden has done nothing remotely close to the egregious, anti-American acts of Trump. We can debate the success and mindset of our current president, as we have about most presidents in our lifetimes, but Biden was never a threat to our democracy. Trump is. He is unique among all American presidents for his efforts to keep power at any cost.

Personally, I find it hard to understand how Americans who take pride in our system of government support Trump. All those soldiers who died in World War II were fighting against the kind of regime Trump wants to create on our soil. How do they not see it?

An attack on the rule of law

Sitting federal judges do not normally make media appearances to warn about the dangers of any particular politician, but then again we do not live in normal times. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, who was appointed by both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush (to different federal courts), sat down this week with CNN to give such a warning, about Trump's dangerous rhetoric about the judges in all the cases that relate to him. He brought up the killing of the son and wounding of the husband of a federal judge in 2020 to make the point that this can lead to deadly consequences. Here is just some of what he had to say about Trump's constant barrage of invective and threats against judges and their loved ones:

When judges are threatened, and particularly when their family is threatened, it's something that's wrong and should not happen. It is very troubling because I think it is an attack on the rule of law.

. . .

The rule of law can only be maintained if we have independent judicial officers who are able to do their job and ensure that the laws are in fact enforced and that the laws are applied equally to everybody who appears in our courthouse. [I am concerned for the] future of our country and the future of democracy in our country, because if we don't have a viable court system that's able to function efficiently, then we have tyranny.

. . .

I've been a judge for over 40 years. And, this is a new phenomenon. I'm not saying that it didn't happen before, but it was very rare that I would ever receive any type of a threat. And unfortunately, that is no longer, the case.

. . .

[Threats have increased], no question about it, I think encouraged by the prior president, unfortunately. I would say half our judges [who have handled cases related to Trump] have been seriously threatened. It makes you nervous.

Projection, much?

Trump, as always, has no sense of irony whatsoever. Whatever he is accusing someone else of, you can bet your bottom dollar it means that he is guilty as sin of doing exactly the same thing. We found this particular effort laughably pathetic, personally.

"Donald Trump keeps whipping up his supporters in an effort to incite violence against everyone in the judicial system who is working hard to hold him to account for his criminal activity. This includes judges and even the families of judges. But he had an incredible 'self-own' this week when he took to his pet social media outlet to whine about the federal special prosecutor who has brought two separate cases against him. After the prosecutor answered the Trump-appointed judge with a scathing takedown of her legal reasoning -- including a promise to appeal her judgment right away -- Trump turned all snowflakey once again. He complained that the prosecutor was, and I quote, 'a lowlife who is nasty, rude, and condescending, and obviously trying to "play the ref".' First off, it is 'work the ref' not 'play the ref,' and second, Trump complaining about someone trying to influence judges is just downright laughable. I mean, I had to check, because at first I thought that was a description of Trump himself: 'a lowlife who is nasty, rude, and condescending.' As far as Trump is concerned, irony is dead, obviously."

The Donald J. Trump Valley Forge Airport?

This is an idea which deserves all the ridicule that can possibly be heaped upon it.

"I see some Republicans in Congress have nothing better to do than suggest that Washington's Dulles Airport be renamed for Donald Trump. But you know what? I have an even better idea for them! Why not tie it to the American history Trump loves to mangle? As president, Trump gave a patriotic speech where he lauded the American Revolutionary army because they 'took over the airports' from the British. That's right: airports. In the 1700s. So the real honor for Trump would be to have one of those fabled Revolutionary War airports named for him, right? I would suggest that Republicans in Congress pass a resolution that would christen 'The Donald J. Trump Valley Forge Airport'... and then after they pass it, we can all have a laugh when we tell them it doesn't actually exist."

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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