Friday, July 16, 2021

Something to Know - 16 July

Just another day in the life of a dysfunctional democracy populated by climate change deniers, anti-vaxers, supporters of the Big Lie, and other garden variety morons.   Keep an eye on them, but don't let them totally screw up your day.   

Today Americans began to see the concrete effects of the American Rescue Plan show up in their bank accounts, as the expanded child tax credit goes into effect for one year. Through this program, the Child Tax Credit increased to $3,000 per child aged 6 to 17 and $3,600 per child under 6. All working families will get the full credit if they make up to $150,000 for a couple or $112,500 for a family with a single parent. The government sent payments for almost 60 million children on Thursday, totaling $15 billion.

This is a really big deal. In America, one in seven children lives in poverty. This measure is expected to cut that poverty nearly in half. Studies suggest that addressing childhood poverty continues to pay off over time, as it helps adults achieve higher levels of mobility.

But this huge achievement of the Biden presidency—every single Republican voted against it—has taken a backseat in the news to two blockbuster stories about the former president.

The first is the continuing information coming from a forthcoming book by Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporters Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker called I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year. Their eye-popping accounts of the days surrounding the January 6 insurrection broke last night with accounts of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, comparing the former president to Hitler and fearing that he was going to refuse to leave office.

In response, the former president and his supporters are attacking Milley. Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson showed an image of Milley with a gay pride flag, an anti-fascist sign, and a reference to "thoroughly modern Milley," a play on a popular film title from 1967.

The former president released a long and rambling statement, rehashing past grievances, that nonetheless had a statement that stood out. "I never threatened, or spoke about, to anyone, a coup of our Government," he said. "[I]f I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would want to do it with is General Mark Milley." It was an odd denial.

Also interesting in the book excerpts were stories that suggest why Republican leaders were eager to avoid an investigation into the insurrection.

Accounts in the excerpts told of Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) confronting Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) during the insurrection. "That f--king guy Jim Jordan," she allegedly told Milley. "That son of a bitch.... While these maniacs are going through the place, I'm standing in the aisle and he said, 'We need to get the ladies away from the aisle. Let me help you.' I smacked his hand away and told him, 'Get away from me. You f--king did this.'" Cheney has accepted a position on the House select committee to investigate the insurrection, set up after the Republicans killed the bipartisan, independent commission.

Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), who almost ran into the rioters, also blamed his colleagues. While they were being sheltered in a secure room, he allegedly went up to Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), who had supported Trump's challenge to the election, and told them: "This is what you have caused."

The second big story came this morning in the form of an article from The Guardian, which purported to reveal leaked documents from the Kremlin in which Putin and Russian leaders agreed in January 2016 to make Trump president to sow discord in the United States in order to get U.S. sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Crimea overturned. The documents described Trump as an "impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex."

There are many reasons to be skeptical of this "leak," but, in the end, whether true or not, it doesn't tell us much that we don't already know. There is ample evidence, articulated most clearly in the Senate Intelligence Report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, that Russia worked hard to get Trump elected in 2016.

What is interesting about this story is, if you will pardon this fan of Sherlock Holmes, "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time." In that old Arthur Conan Doyle tale, the key to the mystery was that the family dog didn't bark at an intruder in the night and therefore must have known the villain.

Shortly after The Guardian story broke, Trump himself announced that he and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) were meeting over general issues, although these two big stories simply had to be on the agenda, not least because McCarthy was caught on tape in June 2016 saying: "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump." (Dana Rohrabacher was a Republican representative from California.) Later today, through his spokesperson, Trump appeared to call the story "fake news," along with his usual descriptions of stories of his connections to Russia, but, despite a flurry of statements he issued today, these comments were not issued as a statement but were only quoted in his spokesperson's tweets.

As near as I can tell, the former president is the only Republican who has responded to the story. Other leaders are talking about the border, masks, Cuba, and Britney Spears. Their lack of a response to a deeply damaging story about the leader of their party suggests to me that, at best, they are hoping the story will disappear and, at worst, they believe it's true.




Three things to ponder for today:
  1. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  2. You're never too old to learn something stupid.
  3. I'm supposed to respect my elders, but it's getting harder and harder for me to find one now.

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