Wednesday, January 31, 2024

With no policy agenda to run on, Donald Trump and his MAGA acolytes can sit around and fume about a "Holy War" against Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce

Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce

Just when you thought MAGA Republican men, especially Donald Trump, had said every stupid thing they could say and done every stupid thing they could do, along comes a headline like this -- "Trump Allies Pledge ‘Holy War’ Against Taylor Swift." That sounds like something out of The Onion, but it's not a joke. Trump and his MAGA minions actually are so childish, insecure, and imbecilic that they are threatening a young woman who just happens to be the most popular entertainer on earth, maybe the most popular human on earth, because . . . well, that's not clear -- but it's apparently because she has attended a few NFL football games to watch her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, play for the Kansas Chiefs. And now, with the Super Bowl almost upon us, Trump supporters have concluded that this is obvious evidence that Swift is an agent for Joe Biden, and the two are conspiring with the NFL to derail Trump's run for the presidency -- a position for which he is disqualified anyway.

As if that weren't embarrassing enough, Trump had to unleash his inner toddler and tell associates that he is more popular than Taylor Swift. Given that Swift's current Eras Tour has passed $1 billion in gross ticket sales for 2023 and is expected to top $2 billion total, Trump's brain is more miswired than many of us thought -- if he really thinks he can win a popularity contest with Taylor Swift. To top it off, Swift has sold an estimated 114 million album units worldwide and, in terms of pure sales, tallied 46.6 million in the United States and 7 million in the United Kingdom. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), her albums have garnered 51 million certified units in the United States. Add all that up, and "The Donald" is staring at a monstrous deficit on the popularity scale. He might want to consider taking on someone else in a popularity contest.

While all of this is off-the-charts nutty, even by postmodern Republican standards, it also is serious. We live in a gun-soaked culture, and all it would take is one MAGA loon to fire a pot shot at Taylor Swift -- and our warped political culture has led to a tragedy. 

At the moment, we do not know exactly what Trump and his allies have done regarding threats against Taylor Swift. But if they have crossed a boundary into inciting violence, she likely could press criminal charges against those involved. She and her family, and perhaps Kelce, could have grounds for a lawsuit that might clean out what is left of Trump's fortune. As usual, Trump and his allies might be flaunting the rule of law and playing with legal fire that could turn into a costly conflagration.

How did we get to this point? Yahoo! explains, with original reporting from Rolling Stones'

Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift hasn’t even endorsed President Joe Biden for re-election yet. That hasn’t stopped members of MAGAland’s upper crust from plotting to declare — as one source close to Donald Trump calls it — a “holy war” on the pop megastar, especially if she ends up publicly backing the Democrats in the 2024 election.

According to three people familiar with the matter, Trump loyalists working on or close to the former president’s campaign, longtime Trump allies in right-wing media, and an array of outside advisers to the ex-president have long taken it as a given that Swift will eventually endorse Biden (as she did in 2020). Indeed, several of these Republicans and conservative media figures have discussed the matter with Trump over the past few months, the sources say.

While Swift has not yet issued an endorsement in the 2024 race, The New York Times reported Monday that Swift is a key name on Biden aides’ “wish lists of potential surrogates.” A potential Swift appearance at Super Bowl LVIII alongside her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, has already prompted the MAGA right’s culture-war pugilists into a conspiracy-fueled froth about how this NFL season has been rigged to boost Biden.

The thought of Taylor Swift waging  a campaign against Trump apparently has bruised the former president's fragile ego,

Behind the scenes, Trump has reacted to the possibility of Biden and Swift teaming up against him this year not with alarm, but with an instant projection of ego. In recent weeks, the former president has told people in his orbit that no amount of A-list celebrity endorsements will save Biden. Trump has also privately claimed that he is “more popular” than Swift and that he has more committed fans than she does, a person close to Trump and another source with knowledge of the matter tell Rolling Stone.

Last month, the source close to Trump adds, the ex-president commented to some confidants that it “obviously” made no sense that he was not named Time magazine’s 2023 Person of the Year — an honor that went to none other than Swift in December.

In an email to Rolling Stone, Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller shrugged off the prospect of a Swift endorsement for Trump’s rival. “Joe Biden might be counting on Taylor Swift to save him, but voters are looking at these sky-high inflation rates and saying, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,’” Miller wrote.

In its The Morning newsletter, The New York Times recently ran the headline "The End of Economic Pessimism. The story shows that the Biden economy is rocking along in very good shape, and that includes declining inflation, so to no one's surprise, Miller, the Trump associate, has no clue what he is talking about:

The former president has already taken public swipes at Swift because of her endorsement of two Tennessee Democrats running during the 2018 midterms. “I like Taylor’s music about 25 percent less now,” Trump said following the pop singer’s statement.

Swift also blasted Trump during the 2020 election, accusing him of trying to “blatantly cheat and put millions of Americans’ lives at risk” following the Trump administration’s efforts to hinder mail-in voting amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, as Trump has been having a popularity contest with Swift in his own head, others close to him — including GOP operatives, some of his 2024 staff, and Trump-y media figures — have been brainstorming different ways to go after Swift. Since late last year, these Trump allies have repeatedly discussed how to turn the culture-warrior dial up to 11 if she re-endorses Biden this year, the sources recount.

What does it mean to "turn the culture-warrior dial up to 11"? A reasonable person could take that as a threat, which suggests that not only is Trump reckless and dangerous with language, but so are the people around him. Perhaps it provides insight on how Trump came to face four criminal indictments (totaling 91 counts), along with various civil matters that appear to be draining his bank account. Naturally, Trump has to blame someone else for his legal troubles, given that he seems genetically incapable of taking responsibility for anything -- and that's not a great quality in someone who poses as a legit (although disqualified) presidential candidate: 

“It would be more fuel thrown onto the culture-war fires,” says an official working on the Trump reelection efforts. “Another left-wing celebrity who is part of the Democrat elite telling you what to think.”

Is anyone aware of Taylor Swift telling others what to think -- or is this another case of a Trump acolyte putting his ignorance on display? No wonder this guy didn't want his name attached to such an inane quote.

How devilish are Trump and the sycophants who reside in his space? The Rolling Stone reporters shine light on that question:

Publicly, members of Trump’s inner sanctum and social circle are already signaling Swift’s prominent position atop their enemies list — a situation that has reached fever pitch now that Swift’s boyfriend will once again be playing in the Super Bowl.

On Monday, Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba shared a post on social media that includes the caption: “Who thinks this country needs a lot more women like Alina Habba, and a lot less like Taylor Swift?” (Habba has represented Trump in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case, where he was ordered to pay $83 million.)

Fox News host Jeanine Pirro — who’s acted as an informal political adviser to Trump, including during his presidency — warned Swift to stay out of 2024: “Don’t get involved. Don’t get involved in politics; we don’t want to see you there,” the Fox host said. “Joe Biden is in [a] hole with young people, he knows it. And if he thinks Taylor can get him out of that hole, he’s gonna go for it.”

That sounds like a right-winger telling Swift what to do -- the very thing another Trumper accused Swift of doing. Is it possible for MAGA types to speak a single sentence without engaging in psycholigical projection? Doesn't look like it. 

The tendency to find conspiratorial nonsense behind every shrub appears to be a GOP-wide phenomenon:

Former GOP presidential hopeful and current Trump hype man Vivek Ramaswamy took to Twitter following the latest Chiefs’ playoff win to claim that unnamed forces would rig the Super Bowl to give the as-yet nonexistent endorsement from the “artificially culturally propped-up couple” increased visibility.

MAGA pundits have spent months fuming about Swift and her boyfriend — already a hated figure for his role as a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine spokesman.

Is it possible the MAGAs have time to fume about Swift and Kelce because they have no policy agenda to run on, no governance-related achievements they can point to? Of course, Trump has stated numerous times that a second term for him would be all about retribution against his perceived enemies, so he has no policy agenda. How is that supposed to help everyday Americans? Answer: It can't, and it won't

During a rant in November about the GOP’s losses across a string of state elections and abortion-related ballot initiatives, Turning Point USA founder and Trump ally Charlie Kirk warned that Swift was “going to come out in the presidential election” and “mobilize her fans,” adding that “all the Swifties want is swift abortion.” Fox News host and Trump buddy Jesse Watters declared Swift a potential “Pentagon psyop” and “a front for a covert political agenda” during a segment earlier this month.

Taylor Swift is a Pentagon psyhop? How do these people dream up this stuff?

Others working to put Trump back in the White House say that the liberal celebs can bring it on.

“Since Biden is so weak, they need others to shore up his credibility. Won’t matter [since] his disapproval is driving the race. Voters aren’t fools,” John McLaughlin, a top pollster for Trump, says, in response to Rolling Stone’s questions regarding Swift. “Celeb endorsements of Biden are like donating to Nikki Haley. They are a means of virtue signaling. It’s like wearing a medical mask in public after Covid.… Celebrities can endorse Biden, but it doesn’t lower inflation, stop wars, fix the border, or lower crime. Biden’s job approval still sucks. So Trump is still winning and will win.”

I agree that voters aren't fools, so why does Mr. McLaughlin think they aren't smart enough to eventually catch on to this: The Biden economy is strong, not weak?

Spokespeople for Swift and Trump did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone’s requests for comment on this story.

Alabama's Masada Resource Group LLC, led by CEO Donald V. Watkins, joins with Wyoming-based firm to produce clean-burning fuels on a worldwide scale

A diagram of Masada technology

An Alabama company has joined with a Wyoming-based firm to further its development of waste-to-energy products worldwide, according to a statement released yesterday.

Donald V. Watkins, CEO of Masada Resource group LLC -- which has its headquarters in Birmingham -- said its alliance with Mine Plus Consulting Group LLC, of Sheridan, Wyoming, will assist Masada in the development of clean-burning fuels on a global scale. From the Masada statement:

Masada Resource Group, LLC, is pleased to announce that it has executed a Preferred Services Agreement with Wyoming-based Mine Plus Consulting Group, LLC. Mine Plus will provide Masada with contracts management, project accounting, cost controls, data analysis, project development and controls, planning/scheduling, and document-control services on Masada's waste-to-energy projects worldwide.

The global contract between the two firms was signed yesterday. Mine Plus will begin its vendor services by working on Masada's planned waste-to-energy project in South Africa.

Developments in the waste-to-energy sector are coming rapidly, Watkins says:

On October 12, 2022, I published an article titled, “Masada: The Demand for Clean Fuel Conquers All.” Since this article was published, a lot of positive things have happened in the global marketplace for Masada.

On January 17, 2024, Masada executed an Engagement Letter with Synergy Consulting Infrastructure and Financial Advisory Services, Inc., to provide Masada financial advisory services for the company's planned $300-million USD waste-to-energy project in the Durbin/Mandeni Region of South Africa.

On August 22, 2023, Masada executed a Project Management Services Agreement with TWD Technologies Ltd., headquartered in Burlington, Ontario (Canada), to provide end-to-end project management services for this planned waste-to-energy project.

In an era marked by rising worldwide energy costs and the need to address climate change, Masada, and the biofuels it produces, can provide solutions to challenges facing businesses and governments on a broad scale. States Watkins:

With soaring fuel costs, Masada offers common-sense solutions to the production of clean-burning fuels at affordable prices per gallon or liter.

Additionally, Masada’s 2007 “Sponsored Research Agreement” with Auburn University broadened the company’s portfolio of energy-creating solutions and gave Masada a sustained competitive advantage, worldwide.

Masada has been recognized as a productive and forward-thinking entity in the clean-energy field. Writes Watkins:

Masada enjoys a reputation for excellence in the field of clean energy and international business. In 2015, Masada was the recipient of the Alabama Governor’s Trade Excellence Award. Masada's achievements in business and accomplishments in the clean-energy sector have been recognized by global biofuels organizations and trade publications.

Masada is moving forward with projects that produce clean-burning fuels around the world. The demand for commercial-scale clean-fuel production technologies is surging in a host of developed countries.

The timing is right for Masada's smart, clean energy solutions in signatory countries to the 2016 Paris Agreement. South Africa is one of these progressive countries.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

With painful penalties and jarring judgments around every courthouse corner, Donald Trump is one candidate who could be facing a true week from hell

Donald Trump could be facing a hellish week (Getty Images)

Per a recent article at The New Republic (TNR), last week (Jan. 22-26, 2024) was to "go down as the week the Trump meltdown began." Upon further review (as they say in the National Football League), TNR has altered its position, and the headline now reads "Last Week Was Bad for Trump. This Week Could Be Four, Five Times Worse; The former president's trials are starting to take a toll -- and Judge Engoron could be poised to deal another savage blow, possibly by Wednesday."

How could things go from bad to worse so quickly for the former president and 2024 GOP frontrunner? TNR's Michael Tomasky explains:

Think $83.3 million is a lot of money? Well, hold onto your hat, buster, because this week, New York Judge Arthur Engoron is supposed to announce the penalty he’s slapping on Donald J. Trump in the Trump Organization fraud case.

The case, brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James in 2022, accuses Trump of lying to bankers and insurers about the value of his properties. Last September, Engoron declared in a summary judgment that the evidence clearly showed Trump had done so. He wrote in his ruling: “In defendants’ world: Rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party’s lies. That is a fantasy world, not the real world.”

Last month, Engoron said he was aiming to announce the fine amount by January 31. That’s Wednesday. James is seeking $370 million.

Last week’s damage award in the E. Jean Carroll case was staggering. We had a little office pool going (well, just three of us, and we didn’t actually bet money). I came in highest at $40 million, so under traditional Price Is Right rules, I was the closest, but nevertheless light-years off. That rigged, deep-state jury took all of three hours to award Carroll more than three times what lawyer Roberta Kaplan was asking.

Is there a precedent there for a larger reward than was even being sought? Signs are promising. Engoron, you’ll recall, showed little patience for Trump’s courtroom antics. Earlier this month, he nixed Trump’s attempt to make a closing argument. “Not having heard from you by the third extended deadline (noon today), I assume that Mr. Trump will not agree to the reasonable, lawful limits I have imposed as a precondition to giving a closing statement above and beyond those given by his attorneys, and that, therefore, he will not be speaking in court tomorrow,” the judge wrote. Trump nevertheless managed to blurt out a few sentences of petulant nonsense. “Please control your client,” Engoron advised his counsel.

As for precedent, if the answer to that question is yes, Trump truly might be in for a hellish week. Tomasky writes:

Bad? Yep. But the knife took another twist into Trump’s flesh last Friday, the same day the Carroll jury threw all that buckshot in Trump’s face. Barbara Jones was appointed last fall by Engoron to monitor some of the Trump Organization’s transactions. On Friday, Jones wrote Engoron a 12-page letter saying, in part: “I have identified certain deficiencies in the financial information that I have reviewed, including disclosures that are either incomplete, present results inconsistently, and/or contain errors.” So—what’s your bet? Maybe $400 million? What about $500? Who knows?

The money isn’t even the main factor in play, especially considering that Trump probably doesn’t have it and wouldn’t pay it even if he did. No—the nuclear bomb here, the real psychological waterboarding of Donald John Trump, will come if Engoron strips him and his company of the ability to do business in New York state. This option is on the table because Trump was prosecuted under a 1956 law that allows courts the ability to issue a “permanent and plenary ban” on a company if the behavior is egregious enough to warrant it.

Sounds heavy, right? No question it would be a crushing blow to Trump’s ego. But guess what? Trump is such an accomplished con man that this isn’t even the first time the law has been used to prosecute him. Trump University set that precedent. One of Trump’s lawyers whined last week that the law was overbroad and unfair: “This is not just about President Trump. Every major bank CEO and every Wall Street participant should speak out now before the Attorney General’s shocking and tyrannical interference in the capital markets places all New York business transactions at risk.”

So, every business, bank, and investment firm, every financial entity in New York, is built on a mountain of falsified financial documents? That means Trump's defense is "Everybody does it?" Is his lawyer serious about this? 

Tomasky, for one, isn't buying it, and he has a snazzy counter argument that should give devout Trumpistas pause:

Quick … does that statement remind you of anything? It should. To me it sounds an awful lot like Trump’s own blubbering about presidential immunity—that all presidents need blanket immunity because someone is bound to sue them after they leave office over something they did.

Well—no: Somehow or another, we’ve had 46 presidents, and only one of them has faced this kind of legal scrutiny after he left office. That’s because only one president, so far as we know, spent his entire adult life in and out of office flagrantly ignoring the law (one other kind of did, but he resigned and retreated to a mostly quiet life of writing books, and society decided to leave him more or less alone).

So no, presidents don’t need blanket immunity. Trump keeps inventing examples—maybe an ex-president will be sued for having bombed some country. I guess any jerk can file a nuisance lawsuit, but all Congress has to do is pass a law (if indeed one is not already on the books) protecting ex-presidents from legal action arising from policymaking decisions. Ex-presidents—and major bank CEOs and Wall Street “participants”—who obey the law don’t need blanket immunity!

What if Trump cannot operate in the political environment without the cloak of immunity? If that is the case,, my answer is "Hit the road, Jack." Is anyone aware of a provision of law -- even an Old Testament verse -- that says Donald John Trump is entitled to run for president of the United States? I'm not. If Trump can't hack it without immunity -- and by law, he clearly is not immune from criminal acts and he is disqualified from the ballot, as a state court in Colorado found-- then here is my advice: Exit stage left and take your threats of unconstitutional and authoritarian actions, and your brain-dead MAGA minions, with you. Real Americans -- those who cherish our democracy and detest despots -- won't miss you for even a millisecond. We'll be too busy celebrating to notice you are gone. If you think authoritarianism is so great, try moving to Saudi Arabia and see how much fun it is to live there. I'll take Joe Biden over that 100 times out of 100. It sounds like Michael Tomasky is with us on that:

Speaking of immunity: Where’s the ruling on that? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments on January 9, and a lot of people are wondering what’s taking so long. This was the hearing where one of the judges, Florence Pan, noted that under Trump’s theory, a president could order Seal Team 6 to kill a political opponent and face no consequences. It’s widely expected that the court will rule against Trump, and he will appeal.

What a way to start a year! Maybe about a half-a-billion dollars in fines, and a court ruling that is expected to torch his ridiculous immunity theory and allow other prosecutions to proceed. Speaking of which, Jack Smith is looming right around the corner. All while Trump is going to be crowned the Republican nominee. You have to believe that at least some normie Americans are going to see that something’s wrong with this picture.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Yale psychiatrist received 2017 call from White House staffers, who were concerned about signs of Trump's "mental instability" while serving in the Oval Office

Donald Trump and Dr. Bandy Lee

White House staff members called a Yale University psychiatrist in 2017 over concerns about Donald Trump's mental health while he was serving as president, according to a report at DailyExpressUS. (The newspaper is is known as The Daily Express in London, where it is based.) Under the headline "Concerned White House staff 'called psychiatrist about Trump's 'mental instability' in 2017,"  reporter Charlie Bradley writes:

A top psychiatrist says she received a phone call from White House staff who were worried about Donald Trump's mental health, in an exclusive interview with Daily Express US.

In recent weeks, Trump's mental well-being has become a topic of political debate as he and Nikki Haley clash in the race to become the Republican Party nominee.

Haley has suggested that Trump may not be fit for office. The former President claims he has taken a mental fitness test and "aced it."

Dr Bandy Lee, a psychiatrist formerly of Yale University, edited a book called The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, which was published in 2017.

In it, 27 psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental-health professionals wrote essays explaining their concerns that Trump is mentally unfit for office.

Experts argued in the book that Trump is "too mentally unstable" for office.

Since then, Lee has met with members of Congress about Trump's lack of fitness to serve in public office. Bradley writes;

Dr Lee tells Daily Express US that, in late 2017, she received a warning from White House staff that Trump was showing signs of mental instability.

She said: "While I was meeting with Congress members, there was one Republican who was willing to meet with us and her office agreed to meet.

"We were discussing the situation with the Congress members, but the Congresswoman entered the office and then said she wasn't willing to talk about it.

"Two people from the White House reached out to me in late 2017 with concerns about Trump. They were calling because of the book I edited.

"I unfortunately at the time had to refer them to the emergency room. At first, I wasn't sure whether they were actually calling from the White House. Secondly, I didn't want to become the President's treater.

Once I do a personal examination or personally get involved, I can no longer educate the public."

Dr Lee says she was concerned that getting directly involved would compromise her impartiality and therefore leave her unable to speak openly about her concerns regarding Trump's mental health.

She continued: "The emergency room didn't do anything. Later, when I called back the number they called from it was indeed the White House.

"When I called the emergency room, they said they were not concerned about the issue.

"It came out later that White House Chief of Staff at the time, John Kelly, bought my book and shared it with staff and may even have used it to prevent nuclear war with North Korea."

Bradley concludes by noting Trump's strength in winning recent primary elections, along with Haley's determination to continue her campaign, drawing an angry response from Trump. Writes Bradley;

Trump looks likely to win the Republican nomination after securing victories in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Haley says she will continue campaigning as the race heads to South Carolina.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Pills were here, there, and everywhere during the Donald Trump regime; no wonder the president's personal physician was known as "The Candyman"

Report: White House operated like a pharmacy under Trump (NY Post.)

The White House Medical Unit (WHMU) during the Donald Trump administration unlawfully handed out pills to staff members -- even providing clandestine surgery, such as tummy tucks -- according to reports today at multiple news outlets. It is not known, at this point, if Trump himself was involved in any possible wrongdoing.Es

Edquire provides details under this headline for the ages: "Apparently the Trump White House Medical Unit Was Handing Pills Out Like Skittles; A Defense Department report makes the previous administration's clinic look like a West Virginia drugstore," Charles P. Pierce, of Esquire, writes:

Remember the great outcry when somebody left their cocaine lying around the White House lobby? (You have to remember it because it still comes up from time to time as a part of the Litany Of The Bidens memorized by all MAGA initiates.) Well, it turns out that it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise, since the previous administration* was running a pill mill elsewhere in the building. From the Washington Post:

“We found that the White House Medical Unit provided a wide range of health care and pharmaceutical services to ineligible White House staff in violation of Federal law and regulation and DoD policy,” says a new report from the Defense Department’s inspector general. “Additionally, the White House Medical Unit dispensed prescription medications, including controlled substances, to ineligible White House staff.” Many of those served by the unit should not have been."

Who appears at the center of this jaw-dropping escapade? That would be Dr. Ronny Jackson, who was Trump's personal physician during the time in question and used name recognition garnered from that gig to secure a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives -- from Texas, of all places. Writes Pierce:

The report paints a scathing picture of the military-run facility with 60 medical personnel, who are tasked with treating the president, the vice president and the White House staff. It also provides new context to systemic problems in a clinic that made headlines when Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Tex.), who was Donald Trump’s personal doctor until 2018, was accused by almost two dozen colleagues of improper activities, including providing prescription drugs without proper paperwork — a habit that allegedly earned him the nickname “Candyman.” A 2021 Defense Department inspector general report later corroborated some of those claims, which Jackson denied and described as politically motivated.

Even without Jackson's barely discernible oversight, the White House Medical Unit appears to have been operating like one of those small-town West Virginia drugstores that were used as free-standing opiate outlets.

“All phases of the White House Medical Unit’s pharmacy operations had severe and systemic problems,” the inspectors found. It stocked four opioid pain medications: fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone. But the pharmacy protocols were so poor that they “increased the risk for the diversion of controlled substances” to illicit use. For example, controlled medications, including sleeping pill Ambien and stimulant Provigil, were dispensed “without verifying the patient’s identity.” A witness told investigators “Dr. [X] asked if I could hook up this person with some Provigil as a parting gift for leaving the White House … in the unit, it was authorized for us to do that kind of stuff.”

It sounds like Jackson was operating an open-air pharmaceutical bazaar, providing all kinds of services, at all kinds of hours. Writes Pierce:

Yo, Doc. Hook me up with some of the good stuff.

Even clandestine surgery was available.

Wait. What?

Aliases were used “to provide free specialty care and surgery to ineligible White House staff members at military medical-treatment facilities,” according to the report. Former staffers told the inspectors that an ineligible White House employee received free elective surgery and that “the unit altered practices to cater to high‑ranking officials.” One staffer said “we bent the rules to meet this very weird, strange culture that was there, and I think it was really to just impress people.”

The "very weird, strange culture" of the previous administration* already has been demonstrated in 100 different ways, some of them criminal. But I never figured that their White House was full of people getting covert tummy tucks and running the country while hopped up on goofballs. Crazy, man. Far out.

No American should struggle to describe slavery as the cause of the Civil War -- of which a major early battle, at Wilson's Creek, was fought near my childhood home


A painting depicts the Battle of Wilson's Creek

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley recently engaged in a tortured wrestling match in attempting to identify slavery as the cause of the American Civil War. Neither Haley, nor any other American, should struggle to reach such a conclusion regarding the most horrifying and deadliest event (strictly involving humans) ever to take place on U.S. soil, according to longtime Alabama attorney and civil-rights advocate Donald Watkins.

(Note: the aftermath of the Civil War came almost to the doorstep of my childhood home. The Battle of Wilson's Creek, which produced an estimated total of 2,500 casualties, was fought four to five miles from my family's home -- close enough that friends and I made regular bike excursions to what is now Wilson's Creek National Batlefield. It was the second major battle of the Civil War, the first to be fought west of the Mississippi River. Most of the fighting took place in a woodsy, elevated area called "Bloody Hill." For years, my mother had letters that were written by our relatives -- on the Arkansas side of the family -- while they were soldiers in battle at Wilson's Creek. My mother donated those letters to the national battlefield, and they are on display at the museum where the battle took place.) 

The Sinkhole at Bloody Hill, which became a mass grave

Under the headline "Explaining the American Civil War Should Not Be Hard to Do," Watkins writes:

For Nikki Haley and others of her political ilk, explaining the American Civil War should not be hard to do.

Wilson's Creek

The Civil War is a shining example of the greatness of 2,128,948 ordinary Americans from slaveholding and non-slaveholding states who served in the Union Army. Of this number, 640,046 Union soldiers were casualties of war.

According to official government records, 110,100 Union Army soldiers were killed in battle; 224,580 of them died of diseases; 275,174 were wounded, and 30,192 were prisoners of war. 

Wilson's Creek National Battlefield

I honor the sacrifices of these 2,128,948 Union soldiers, who were overwhelmingly White Americans. These soldiers left their families, communities, and farms across the country to put an end to the system of private and commercial slavery in our country, even if they had to die to do so.

Technically, Watkins writes, slavery has not been eradicated within U.S. borders:

Slavery, as authorized in the Thirteenth Amendment, still exists within America's state and federal penal systems. No U.S. president, whether Democrat of Republican, conservative or progressive, Black or White, has seen fit to dismantle penal slavery, even though they had/have plenty of legal tools to do so.

Because of the personal sacrifices of these 2,128,948 Union soldiers, my family members of African descent are free men and women today.


The Ray House at Wilson's Creek

I am not aware of any American voter who favors private and commercial slavery. Yet, politicians like Nikki Haley tip-toe around the issue of slavery, as if they believe some GOP voters and Independents want a reinstatement of the old system of private and commercial slavery in the U.S. To my knowledge, no voter wants to enslave any group of Americans.

 Americans have a history of standing up to tyranny, Watkins notes:

Twice in American history, ordinary Americans with extraordinary courage rose up to put down tyranny within our borders. The first time this occurred was when the colonists fought and won the American Revolution. The second time this occurred was when 2,128,948 Union soldiers fought and won the Civil War.

After the Civil War was won, America, as a measure of grace, forgave the Confederate Army officers and soldiers who waged a war against the United States.

Personally, I cannot honor anybody who fought and died to keep my ancestors enslaved. However, I fully understand that there are tens of millions of Americans who feel the need to honor enslavers for reasons that are personal with them.

So, why are some Americans -- perhaps with Florida governor and former Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis most prominent among them -- attempting to whitewash history to make it appear as if Americans are OK with being under the thumb of tyrannical overseers?

Bloody Hill

Watkins, like many Americans, struggles to explain that one -- especially here in 2024, in an era where the U.S. population (with access to the Internet, fine public schools, and the world's most outstanding collection of public colleges and universities) -- is the most educated it has ever been. Watkins writes:

I do not believe in any form of enslavement -- no matter how many school boards re-imagine slavery in today's history books to make it seem benign and beneficial to American slaves of African descent.

The American Revolution and Civil War were two great moments in American history. All Americans should embrace and celebrate these moments in our nation's past.

No American should be ever be ashamed of the fact that 2,128,948 Union soldiers fought and won a war to put an end to private and commercial slavery in the U.S.


The western edge of the Civil War: Wilson's Creek, also called the Missouri-Kansas Conflict and the Battle of Oak Hills (as it was known to Southerners.)


Friday, January 26, 2024

The muck deepens in Trump criminal RICO case in Georgia as DA Fani Willis fails to disclose lavish gifts from special prosecutor she hired to help lead the case

Fani Willis and Nathan Wade

Georgia district attorney Fani Willis failed to disclose gifts she received from an attorney she hired to serve as special prosecutor in the criminal RICO case against Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump and 17 codefendants, according to a report at Failure to disclose the gifts could lead to significant legal problems for Willis and Nathan Wade, who are leading probably the most important court case in America at the moment-- one that largely is considered the most difficult legal challenge facing Trump and possibly the one most likely to upend his hopes of winning back the White House in the 2024 election against Democratic incumbent Joe Biden.

Watkins, a longtime Alabama attorney and one of the nation's foremost authorities on criminal defense, writes under the headline "Fani Willis' Financial Disclosure Report for 2022 Fails to List Thousands of Dollars in Gifts Lavished Upon Her by Special Prosecutor Nathan J. Wade":

Fani Willis’ Financial Disclosure Report for 2022 fails to list thousands of dollars in airfare, hotel bookings, luxury vacation packages, and other gifts that special prosecutor Nathan J. Wade lavished upon Willis during 2022.

On her “Fulton County Income and Financial Disclosure Report” for 2022, Willis was asked in Section B (3) whether she received a “gift or favor from a single prohibited source in the aggregate amount of $100.00 or more.” A “prohibited source” is any person who is “doing business with the county” or “has interests that may be affected by the performance or non-performance of official duties by the officer or employee” who received the gift.

In Willis' answer to this question, she reported, “None.”

Willis’ Financial Disclosure Report is an annual filing mandated by the Fulton County Code of Ethics (2004). It applies to all elected officials of Fulton County.

The Report for 2022 was signed by Willis and filed on April 17, 2023.

Documents from Wade's divorce case contradict the answer on Willis' financial-disclosure form, Watkins reports:

Credit-card statements disclosed earlier this month in Nathan J. Wade’s divorce proceedings document thousands of dollars in "gifts" from Wade to Willis in 2022.

Willis hired Wade as a special prosecutor in November 2021 to work on the Donald Trump RICO case in Atlanta. Since then, Willis has personally approved nearly $700,000 in payments to Wade and his law firm.

The lavish gifts from Wade to Willis started after he was hired by Willis.

Willis and Wade are reportedly "lovers," as well. There is no provision in the Fulton County Code of Ethics that exempts a "lover/public official" from reporting his/her receipt of gifts of $100 or more from his/her "lover/romantic vendor partner."

What are the possible repercussions from these latest revelations? They are serious, Watkins writes:

Fani Willis’ receipt of thousands of dollars in unreported gifts from Wade in 2022 is a huge legal problem for both Willis and Wade. There is no provision in state or federal law that authorizes a prosecutor to commit an ethics violation in the pursuit of a criminal prosecution against any individual.

Typically, the Fulton County District Attorney's Office would be responsible for enforcing the Fulton County Code of Ethics. In this case, however, the District Attorney, herself, is one of the apparent violators.

It is unknown whether the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta is investigating this matter. They would have jurisdiction to do so.

The situation with Fani T. Willis and Nathan J. Wade is one hot mess.

Trump the Terrorist: Spike in violent threats against public officials of all stripes aligns with the arrival of Trump and his MAGA minions on the political scene

Trump + MAGA = violence

A surge in violent threats directed at public officials appears tied to Donald Trump and his most ardent supporters according to a report at Rolling Stone (RS). The article raises this question: Have Trump and his MAGA minions become a terrorist organization. That question particularly comes to mind when you read the RS headline: "Trump: The Political Threats Will Stop … When You Agree With My Lies." Reporters Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng write:

At the start of this election year, Donald Trump spoke of “bedlam” breaking out if criminal prosecutions prevent him from retaking the White House. But the chaos the former president is threatening isn’t an abstraction. It’s already here, barely a month into 2024.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland recently warned of “a deeply disturbing spike in threats against those who serve the public.” Last month, his top deputy said the Department of Justice is receiving urgent reports of threats to public officials “on a weekly basis.” Around the country, election officials in key battleground states say they are devoting unprecedented resources to election and physical security, and are bracing for an increasingly hellish 2024 to come.

The man who has inspired much of the wave of threats and intimidation efforts directed at politicians, judges, prosecutors, and other officials is not disturbed by any of this. Trump has stressed to close allies that if those individuals — who he says are “harassing” him or trying to “cheat” him out of the 2024 election — simply did what he wanted, the torrent of death threats would stop immediately, two people with knowledge of the situation say.

Those words, in combination with the RS headline, give off a whiff of extortion -- not to mention the smell of terrorism, which appears to be emanating from Trump. According to a report from Georgetown Law School:

It is a felony under federal law to intentionally “solicit, command, induce, or otherwise endeavor to persuade” another person to engage in a crime of violence against a person or property. 18 U.S.C.§ 373. Many states have similar laws. Punishment under this code section is up to 20 years -- and a claim of immunty under federal law would not protect Trump. (by law, Trump is not entitled to criminal immunity anyway.)

Is Trump toying with the possibility of having a fifth criminal indictment added to his litany of legal troubles? That certainly seems like a reasonable question to ask. Write Rawnsley and Suebsaeng:

Trump has publicly pledged that if the criminal cases against him hurt his election prospects, “It’ll be bedlam in the country.” Trump’s lawyers similarly warned the Supreme Court there would be “chaos and bedlam” should Colorado prevail in keeping him off the ballot.  

At times, though, the former president has privately accused some officials and Democrats of making up certain threats and attacks to make him look bad, the two sources add.

But for the many people on the receiving end of those threats, there’s nothing fictitious about the dangers or the reverberating consequences. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working to find new ways to protect themselves and their staffers. Three years after the deadly Jan. 6 riot, U.S. Capitol Police are still grappling with an explosion in violent threats. And critical states in the upcoming election are experiencing a sharp rise in resignations among election workers and administrators, many of whom openly say they can’t withstand the pro-Trump, conspiracy-theory-fueled scare tactics any longer.

Trump's action, or inaction, regarding political violence is not a surprise to those who have seen him operate up close. From the RS report: 

To those who’ve worked closely with the former president, Trump’s steadfast refusal to condemn, or even discourage, right-wing violence is as part of his political DNA as anything else. 

“There were instances when I was in the room when I worked in the Trump administration… when one person or more would advise him that his words could potentially cause violence, and he would just wave his hand at you, like he was swatting away a fly, as if to say, ‘whatever’ or ‘shut up,’” recalls Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s former White House press secretary. “Every time something like that was given to him [he would do that]. It was his signal that he didn’t want to hear something. It was always that hand, and you just knew. If you got the hand wave, you knew not to bring it up again — it was his way of showing he thought you were being overly dramatic.”

This reporting is based on new internal government data reviewed by Rolling Stone, as well as interviews with state election officials, senior congressional sources, former federal prosecutors, Biden administration officials, and other Democratic and Republican sources familiar with the matter.

A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from Rolling Stone. Statistics tell a compelling, and alarming story, the RS reporters write: The numbers speak for themselves: The American discourse is growing more violent. Over the past five fiscal years, federal prosecutions for threats-related charges generally — against both public officials and private citizens — jumped by 47 percent compared to the previous five years, according to data provided to Rolling Stone by the Justice Department; the number of defendants prosecuted spiked from 769 to 1129.

The Justice Department data includes prosecutions for violations of seven different threats-related statutes, among them a federal statute that prohibits kidnapping or killing a member of Congress or conspiring to do as much. From fiscal years 2012 to 2018, the Justice Department prosecuted only one such case. Since then, it has prosecuted four.

The number of threats investigated by the Capitol Police has doubled since 2017, Trump’s first year in office. The agency’s threat assessment caseload numbered just under 4,000 cases that year but grew to a record 9,625 in 2021. In 2023, Capitol Police investigated over 8,000 threats, with more expected as the country heads into a presidential election. “This is going to be a very busy year for our special agents,” Ashan Benedict, the Capitol Police’s assistant chief of protective and intelligence operations said in a statement.

Many ominous or intimidating messages sent to members of Congress often fall into a gray area between constitutionally-protected, albeit coarse speech and pledges of imminent violence, creating frustration among some public officials. The legal difference between a caller wishing death on a lawmaker or their staff versus actively threatening their lives is not always apparent to the recipient, and the former can be jarring, too.

The spike in violent threats has not gone unnoticed in Congress. Eric Swalwell is one member to take notice:

Rep. Eric Swalwell’s (D-Calif.) office tells Rolling Stone it has been exploring legislation that would allow law enforcement to prosecute a broader range of threats. “You never want to suppress free speech, but I do think we need to look at something between free speech and a specific, direct threat,” Swalwell says.

Of course, not every death threat in this ongoing trend can be attributed to extreme Trumpism or related ideologies. However, the former president’s relentless public targeting of various political and legal foes has clearly thrown a powerful accelerant on an already fraught national state of affairs.

Early this month police were called in when the residence of U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is assigned to the federal election subversion case against Trump, was the target of an apparent “swatting” attempt. Elsewhere, Arthur Engoron, the judge presiding over the ex-president’s New York civil fraud trial, received a bomb threat this month. Last month, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) announced she had been inundated with death threats following the suit that caused Trump’s removal from the state’s 2024 ballot.

“Within three weeks of the lawsuit being filed, I received 64 death threats. I stopped counting after that,” Griswold wrote. “I will not be intimidated. Democracy and peace will triumph over tyranny and violence.”

Academics have researched the issue and found violent threats are at a peak, which correlates with the arrival of Donald Trump on the political scene. From the RS report:

Pete Simi, a sociology professor at Chapman University, has sifted through court records of prosecutions for threats against elected officials, election workers, judges, law enforcement, and officials who work in education and health care. He says that threats are at a disturbing peak.

“We see the highest number of cases in 2023,” Simi says. “There’s a big spike around 2017 to 2018 and then it maintains at a pretty high level.”

The character of the threats has also changed recently. Offenders can have a variety of motivations for making threats, from losing touch with reality during a mental health crisis to a more calculated attempt to achieve political ends.

In about half of the cases identified by Simi, threat-makers had clear, discernible ideological motivation — a proportion which has only increased with time, peaking in 2023.

Simi — an expert witness in the Colorado Supreme Court case to remove Trump from the state’s 2024 election ballot for inciting an insurrection — believes that Trump plays a unique role in the worsening climate of threats.

“The spike in threats after 2017 reflected, at least to some extent, President Trump’s role in promoting political violence both during the 2016 presidential campaign and in the four years of his administration that followed,” he wrote in an October opinion piece.

The White House also is paying attention, and administration officials do not look for the threats to subside anytime soon. Also, they are not pleased with the government's response to the problem:

Two Biden administration officials tell Rolling Stone that they only expect the volume of death threats and political intimidation to increase as Election Day 2024 approaches. The tide of intimidation has left at least one prominent swing state election official exceedingly frustrated.

“As cautious a person as Attorney General Merrick Garland is, I think he is being far too cautious here, when it comes to these investigations and prosecutions of threats against election administrators and election workers,” Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes said in a recent interview with Rolling Stone.

Another senior state-election official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, adds, “We’re losing election workers left and right because they don’t feel safe, and for good reason. And guess who is going to be there to replace them? A guy who thinks all elections are rigged unless Donald Trump or some other goon wins it.”

John Keller, a top prosecutor in the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force, established during President Joe Biden’s first year in office, says the department is “taking threats to the election community extremely seriously.” A spokesperson pointed to a number of recent convictions for election worker-related threats.

What is it like for election workers on the front line? The answer is simple: They are afraid:

Last year, the Brennan Center for Justice released a survey of local officials across the nation showing that 45 percent “of local election officials said they fear for the safety of their colleagues.” The center’s analysis underscored these offices have experienced “high turnover amid safety threats and political interference” during and after then-President Trump’s failed crusade to overturn Biden’s 2020 electoral victory. (Due to those efforts, Trump is expected to stand trial in federal court amid his run for another term as president.)

“On a weekly basis — sometimes more often — I am getting reports about threats to public officials, threats to our prosecutors, threats to law-enforcement agents who work in the Justice Department, threats to judges,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in December. “What we’ve seen is an unprecedented rise in threats to public officials across the board.”

Concerns go beyond party affiliation or political ideology, the RS reporters write:

It is not just Democrats or Biden officials making these points. Current and former elected officials who speak out against Trump or his election-denialism movement often endure a similar new-normal: constantly worrying about their families’ safety in ways they never thought they’d have to before.

“It takes just one crazy person to think they are going to make a name for themselves and prove to themselves, one way or another, to be the savior of the country or savior of the cause… It just takes one crazy person to perpetrate some act of violence or shoot somebody,” Rusty Bowers, the former Arizona state House speaker, tells Rolling Stone.

Bowers, a Republican, refused to go along with Trump’s demands that he help him steal the election in the crucial battleground of Arizona, during the chaotic aftermath of the 2020 presidential contest. When Bowers refused to bow to Team Trump’s demands, MAGA supporters published his home address and cell phone number, showed up to his home armed, and drove a truck with a sign falsely claiming him to be a pedophile through his neighborhood, according to the Jan. 6 House committee.

The former state legislative leader now finds the current climate of pervasive, politically-motivated threats “deeply concerning.”

Bowers recalls that when he ran for office three decades ago, “low-level name-calling, and things like that” were commonplace. Now, he says that has been widely replaced by “doxxing, harming you, and putting your information on the internet,” as well as “making your children miserable” and chasing decent people out of public life.

“When Donald Trump’s deportment justified and legitimized a level of discourse countrywide that others were quick to embrace, the genie was out of the bottle,” Bowers says. “We have a worship of violence in our country, it’s entertainment, and when you throw in politics, it just makes everything worse.”

“I don’t blame Trump if someone comes by my house and yells at me,” he adds. “But he could do something about it. Trump could calm down folks on his side. The level of intense, angry public discourse that we have today — that does not respect people, or humanity, or gender, or children, or age, like it’s open season to say whatever you want without any associated responsibility — seems to have coalesced around Trump’s attitudes.”