Democracy Has Prevailed.

December 7, 2023

Um...Sen Mastriano? Anti-Semitism? Really?

Let's just start here

With a 400% increase in antisemitic incidents following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas against Israel and recent reports of antisemitism on college campuses in Pennsylvania, state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) is introducing legislation to end state taxpayer support for colleges or universities that enable antisemitism.

“State tax dollars should not be in effect subsidizing colleges and universities that enable antisemitic behavior,” Mastriano said. “My bill would end state taxpayer support for any Pennsylvania college or university that authorizes, facilitates or supports an event promoting antisemitism on campus.”

Mastriano’s bill would cut state funding for one year for any higher education institutions that participate in or otherwise support antisemitism.

While antisemitism in any form is morally reprehensible seeing something like this from PA State Senator Doug Mastriano is more than a little cringe-worthy.

First, he links to the ADL - the Anti-Defamation League - with seemingly little or no interest in some of the other things the ADL has reported.

Like this:

December 15, 2021

Gab CEO Andrew Torba claims he’s not an antisemite, but he tells a very different story via Gab’s Twitter feed and his personal Gab account. In October 2021, Torba engaged in multiple antisemitic tirades on Twitter and Gab, posting and sharing a wide array of bigoted content. These posts – which had the potential to reach millions of people via Gab’s 390,000 Twitter followers and Torba’s 3.3 million Gab followers – promoted a range of antisemitic tropes, such as Jews having dual loyalty to the U.S. and Israel, that Jews are to blame for the crucifixion of Jesus and that Jews control the U.S. government.

Gab, a self-described “free speech” platform, has a long history as a haven for antisemites, extremists and conspiracy theorists. Robert Bowers, the white supremacist who murdered 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, made numerous antisemitic posts on his Gab account in the weeks prior to the shooting. Three years later, antisemitic content persists on the platform, easily accessible within just a few clicks. Well-known antisemites like David DukeRick Wiles and Nicholas Fuentes maintain an active presence on the site.

And why should I bring up Andrew Torba and Gab? 

Well, there's this:

Doug Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Pennsylvania, is facing bipartisan criticism for his ties to Gab, a far-right social media platform, and its founder Andrew Torba, over the rife antisemitic commentary that exists on the site. 


Mastriano has had a formal relationship with Torba and Gab since at least April, when Mastriano’s campaign paid Gab $5,000 for “consulting” services, according to state records first published by Media Matters for America, a left-leaning watchdog organization that has documented the relationship between Mastriano and Torba.  

This was more than 3 years after Robert Bowers slaughtered 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Bowers did so after posting some anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on, you guessed it, Andrew Torba's Gab.

But wait. There's more from the ADL:

According to Torba, the Gab founder’s public affiliation with Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano began in May 2022, when Torba officially announced that Gab would be endorsing Mastriano and PA Senate candidate Kathy Barnette. Torba claimed that this announcement was a culmination of the work he has done over the past year in order to build “a coalition of Christian nationalists at the local and state levels.”

And what did Doug get for his five large?

Well, Rolling Stone has some info

Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, appears to have paid the far-right platform Gab for followers. An investigation by Huffpost found that new accounts on the website automatically follow Doug Mastriano, exponentially increasing his follower count since he paid $5,000 in “consulting” fees to the platform in April. 

What sort of “consulting” Mastriano’s campaign received is unclear, but he is gaining an audience on the Nazi-loving platform. According to Huffpost, there are only seven accounts automatically followed by new users: Mastriano, Gab founder Andrew Torba, and a selection of right-wing media outlets. Since the payment was made in April, Mastriano’s follower base has grown from less than 3,000 to upwards of 37,000. 

After Doug's ties to Gab came to light, this happened:

On July 28, Mastriano responded to that criticism, attempting to distance himself from the site and its Christian nationalist founder, who said recently in a video that Christians are “done being controlled and being told what we’re allowed to do in our own country by a 2% minority.”

In a statement, Mastriano said Torba doesn’t speak for his campaign and he rejects antisemitism in any form. He said the recent criticism of his association with Gab was an attempt by Democrats to smear him and he attacked his Democratic opponent, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. 


In case you missed it, that "2% minority" controlling Christians "in our own country" is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory from Andrew Torba. Just in case you didn't know.

But let's step away from Gab and just look at Mastriano's relationship with Andrew Torba.

With this:

In July, following fierce criticism from Democrats and Jewish leaders, Republicans among them, Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano issued a statement declaring that Andrew Torba, the self-styled Christian nationalist founder of the far-right social network Gab, "doesn't speak for me or my campaign."

Days earlier, however, Mastriano — who won the GOP nomination for governor with the backing of former President Donald Trump — accepted a $500 contribution from Torba, who has frequently posted antisemitic rants and declared Jews unwelcome in his far-right movement, per a campaign finance report released Tuesday and first reported by Politico's Holly Otterbein.

Did he ever return that five hundred bucks? Why did he accept it in the first place?

After learning all that, take another look at Doug's legislation.  

Laughable. Hypocritical. Typically Mastriano.


November 30, 2023

Henry Kissinger, War Criminal, Dead at 100

Here's something I wrote about old Henry.

And here's what I want to emphasize: 

Then there's Vietnam.  Take a look at this from Hitchens, again.:

In the fall of 1968, Richard Nixon and some of his emissaries and underlings set out to sabotage the Paris peace negotiations on Vietnam. The means they chose were simple: they privately assured the South Vietnamese military rulers that an incoming Republican regime would offer them a better deal than would a Democratic one. In this way, they undercut both the talks themselves and the electoral strategy of Vice President Hubert Humphrey. The tactic "worked," in that the South Vietnamese junta withdrew from the talks on the eve of the election, thereby destroying the peace initiative on which the Democrats had based their campaign. In another way, it did not "work," because four years later the Nixon Administration tried to conclude the war on the same terms that had been on offer in Paris. The reason for the dead silence that still surrounds the question is that in those intervening years some 20,000 Americans and an uncalculated number of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians lost their lives. Lost them, that is to say, even more pointlessly than had those slain up to that point. The impact of those four years on Indochinese society, and on American democracy, is beyond computation. The chief beneficiary of the covert action, and of the subsequent slaughter, was Henry Kissinger.
Note that the peace talk sabotage took place before the 1968 election.  Nixon was still a private citizen (albeit one running for President) who had no legal authority to influence foreign policy.  In fact, it's a crime to do so.

It's pretty clear that the war was extended 4 years in order to aid in the election of Richard Nixon.  All the death and suffering in those extended years is on their hands.

Do I need to point out that Captain John McCain was captured in October 1967 and was released in March of 1973?

How much earlier would McCain have been released had Kissinger not sabotaged the '68 peace talks?  How much torture would he not have endured had the man he so deferentially reveres not, in effect, extended the Vietnam war for a Nixon's political gain?

And something else about Henry:

 Then there's the massacre of East Timor.  In 1975, East Timor was invaded by Indonesia in December of 1975. Hitchens, writing in The Nation in 2002:

Kissinger, who does not find room to mention East Timor even in the index of his three-volume memoir, has more than once stated that the invasion came to him as a surprise, and that he barely knew of the existence of the Timorese question. He was obviously lying. But the breathtaking extent of his mendacity has only just become fully apparent, with the declassification of a secret State Department telegram. The document, which has been made public by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, contains a verbatim record of the conversation among Suharto, Ford and Kissinger. "We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action," Suharto opened bluntly. "We will understand and will not press you on the issue," Ford responded. "We understand the problem you have and the intentions you have." Kissinger was even more emphatic, but had an awareness of the possible "spin" problems back home. "It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly," he instructed the despot. "We would be able to influence the reaction if whatever happens, happens after we return.... If you have made plans, we will do our best to keep everyone quiet until the President returns home." Micromanaging things for Suharto, he added: "The President will be back on Monday at 2 pm Jakarta time. We understand your problem and the need to move quickly but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned." As ever, deniability supersedes accountability.
Long Hitchens short, Kissinger gave Indonesia the OK to invade East Timor.

 Where tens of thousands were slaughtered.

Henry Kissinger, Dead at 100.

November 29, 2023

What Mike Pence Told Jack Smith

 From ABCNews:

Speaking with special counsel Jack Smith's team earlier this year, former Vice President Mike Pence offered harrowing details about how, in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, then-President Donald Trump surrounded himself with "crank" attorneys, espoused "un-American" legal theories, and almost pushed the country toward a "constitutional crisis," according to sources familiar with what Pence told investigators.

The sources said Pence also told investigators he's "sure" that -- in the days before Jan. 6, 2021, when a violent mob tried to stop Congress from certifying the election -- he informed Trump he still hadn't seen evidence of significant election fraud, but Trump was unmoved, continuing to claim the election was "stolen" and acting "recklessly" on that "tragic day."

Pence is the highest-ranking current or former government official known to have spoken with the special counsel team investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election. What he allegedly told investigators, described exclusively to ABC News, sheds further light on the evidence Smith's team has amassed as it prosecutes Trump for allegedly trying to unlawfully "remain in power" and "erode public faith" in democratic institutions.

Some details:

Sources said that investigators' questioning became so granular at times that they pressed Pence over the placement of a comma in his book: When recounting a phone call with Trump on Christmas Day 2020, Pence wrote in his book that he told Trump, "You know, I don't think I have the authority to change the outcome" of the election on Jan. 6.

But Pence allegedly told Smith's investigators that the comma should have never been placed there. According to sources, Pence told Smith's investigators that he actually meant to write in his book that he admonished Trump, "You know I don't think I have the authority to change the outcome," suggesting Trump was well aware of the limitations of Pence's authority days before Jan. 6 -- a line Smith includes in his indictment.

Christmas Day, 2020. 

Sometime ago, The NYTimes reported on Trump's "pressure campaign" to convince Pence to halt the count. It included this:

By Jan. 4, Mr. Pence and Mr. Jacob were sitting in the Oval Office with Mr. Trump and Mr. Eastman. At the meeting, Mr. Jacob recalled, Mr. Eastman admitted in front of the former president that his plan violated the Electoral Count Act.

Still, Mr. Trump and Mr. Eastman pressed on, continuing with meetings and calls the next day. Mr. Jacob took notes. On Jan. 5, Mr. Eastman told him directly: “I’m here to request that you reject the electors.”

But as they discussed the legal arguments, it became clear Mr. Jacob had the law on his side. Mr. Eastman admitted his theories would fail 9 to 0 before the Supreme Court, Mr. Jacob said.

January 4, 2021. 

So, reporting suggests that the Smith investigation was so "granular" that it was asking for an explanation about where the correct comma placement should have been in Pence's explanation to Trump that the Vice President has no authority to change the outcome of a presidential election. And yet Trump persisted in his pressure on Pence.

They're really digging into the details.

That being said, do you think they dug into this?

That's the record of the White House switchboard the day before Trump's mob stormed the Capitol. At 10:10pm on that day Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano called Donald Trump. According to the record, the call lasted 4 minutes after which, Trump told the operator that Mastriano will be calling Pence.

Do you think Jack Smith will be asking about those conversations?

Does Doug Mastriano think that Jack Smith will be asking about those conversations?


November 28, 2023

Meanwhile, Outside

Some actual climate science from the actual climate scientists at NOAA:

The October global surface temperature was 1.34°C (2.41°F) above the 20th-century average of 14.0°C (57.1°F), making it the warmest October on record. This was 0.24°C (0.43°F) above the previous record from October 2015. October 2023 marked the 47th-consecutive October and the 536th-consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th-century average. The past 10 Octobers (2014–2023) have been the warmest Octobers on record.

And, of course, there's a graph:

Then there's a "year to date" section:

The January–October global surface temperature ranked highest in the 174-year record at 1.13°C (2.03°F) above the 1901–2000 average of 14.1°C (57.4°F). This surpassed the previous record from January–October 2016 by 0.08°C (0.14°F). According to NCEI's statistical analysis and data through October, there is a greater than 99% chance that 2023 will rank as the warmest year on record.

But probably cooler than what's coming.

It's getting warmer out there.

November 13, 2023

Plans Trump Has For His Second Administration

First, let's look at what The Washington Post reported:

Donald Trump and his allies have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term, with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations.

The orange vulgarity not only plans to target President Biden. Take a look:

In private, Trump has told advisers and friends in recent months that he wants the Justice Department to investigate onetime officials and allies who have become critical of his time in office, including his former chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and former attorney general William P. Barr, as well as his ex-attorney Ty Cobb and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, according to people who have talked to him, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Trump has also talked of prosecuting officials at the FBI and Justice Department, a person familiar with the matter said.

Of course, there's no evidence of any criminal wrong doing but apparently to Donald Trump it is enough of a crime to criticize Donald Trump.

There's more:

To facilitate Trump’s ability to direct Justice Department actions, his associates have been drafting plans to dispense with 50 years of policy and practice intended to shield criminal prosecutions from political considerations.

And also invoking the Insurrection Act to quell any protests after he's seized power.  

The NYTimes has some details:

Mr. Trump intends to bring independent agencies — like the Federal Communications Commission, which makes and enforces rules for television and internet companies, and the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces various antitrust and other consumer protection rules against businesses — under direct presidential control.

He wants to revive the practice of “impounding” funds, refusing to spend money Congress has appropriated for programs a president doesn’t like — a tactic that lawmakers banned under President Richard Nixon.

He intends to strip employment protections from tens of thousands of career civil servants, making it easier to replace them if they are deemed obstacles to his agenda. And he plans to scour the intelligence agencies, the State Department and the defense bureaucracies to remove officials he has vilified as “the sick political class that hates our country.”

And there's also this from The NY Times:

Former President Donald J. Trump is planning an extreme expansion of his first-term crackdown on immigration if he returns to power in 2025 — including preparing to round up undocumented people already in the United States on a vast scale and detain them in sprawling camps while they wait to be expelled.


And Mr. Trump would try to end birthright citizenship for babies born in the United States to undocumented parents — by proclaiming that policy to be the new position of the government and by ordering agencies to cease issuing citizenship-affirming documents like Social Security cards and passports to them. That policy’s legal legitimacy, like nearly all of Mr. Trump’s plans, would be virtually certain to end up before the Supreme Court.
A Supreme Court where three of the nine Justices were appointed by Trump himself.

As Maya Angelou said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them.

One last note.

The AP reporting of this story has been posted at Triblive:

A mass deportation operation. A new Muslim ban. Tariffs on all imported goods and “freedom cities” built on federal land.

Much of the 2024 presidential campaign has been dominated by the myriad investigations into former President Donald Trump and the subsequent charges against him. But with less than a year until Election Day, Trump is dominating the race for the Republican nomination and has already laid out a sweeping set of policy goals should he win a second term. 

And so on... 

Why do I point this out?

Well there's this from The Times:

Mr. Vought and Mr. McEntee are involved in Project 2025, a $22 million presidential transition operation that is preparing policies, personnel lists and transition plans to recommend to any Republican who may win the 2024 election. The transition project, the scale of which is unprecedented in conservative politics, is led by the Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has shaped the personnel and policies of Republican administrations since the Reagan presidency.

And this from The Post

Clark’s involvement with Project 2025 has alarmed some other conservative lawyers who view him as an unqualified choice to take a senior leadership role at the department, according to a conservative lawyer who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private talks. Project 2025 comprises 75 groups in a collaboration organized by the Heritage Foundation.

Do you see where I'm going? Long time readers of this blog will remember the many many blog posts pointing out the many many deep financial ties between then Trib's owner, Richard Mellon Scaife (1932 - 2014) and The Heritage Foundation.

It's been almost a decade since Scaife shuffled off his mortal coil but it's safe to say that The Heritage Foundation would not be what it is today were it not for Scaife's financial largess. And now it's The Heritage Foundation that's part of Trump's projected attack on the federal government.

Given that history, shouldn't the current owners of The Trib (whoever they are) at least comment on their news source's past connections to the guy who funded the foundation that might, just might, dissolve our current system of checks and balances?

November 10, 2023

Veterans Day, Armistice Day, Repost

 From a few years ago:

Happy Birthday, Stanley Tucci, Lee Haney, Demi Moore, and Calista Flockhart.

And of course, a Happy Birthday to Kurt Vonnegut who wrote this:

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not.

So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things.

What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.

And all music is.
All music is sacred.

So it goes.

PS Today's also the anniversary of Jerome Kern's passing.  Having said that, I can think of nothing more sacred than this:

November 8, 2023

A Pretty Solid Night For The Democratic Party

Results in a few bullet points:

Oh yea, and this happened just next door:

Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment on Tuesday that ensures access to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care, the latest victory for abortion rights supporters since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.

Ohio became the seventh state where voters decided to protect abortion access after the landmark ruling and was the only state to consider a statewide abortion rights question this year.

“The future is bright, and tonight we can celebrate this win for bodily autonomy and reproductive rights,” Lauren Blauvelt, co-chair of Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, which led support for the amendment, told a jubilant crowd of supporters.

In Ohio.

And then in "ruby red" Kentucky:

Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear fended off a challenge Tuesday from Trump-backed opponent Daniel Cameron, winning praise from Democrats who view his victory in the ruby red state as a potential proxy for the 2024 presidential election.  

Since 2003, Kentucky's gubernatorial races have been a consistent bellwether for presidential elections and Democrats are hoping the trend will hold in 2024. President Joe Biden phoned the Kentucky governor shortly after his victory was announced to congratulate him, the White House said. 

Beshear, who is among the most popular governors in the country, leaned heavily into key Democratic issues during the campaign, including abortion rights and Biden’s achievements on jobs and infrastructure.  

And now some commentary from Talkingpointsmemo:

A pretty solid night for the Democrats. Looks like they hold the Virginia Senate and retake the House of Delegates. Bad night for Youngkin. Abortion referendum and pot legalization referendum both win in Ohio. Huge D wins in New Jersey. Gov Beshear wins and wins big in Kentucky. There are other races but that really tells the story. Solid Dem night.