billy backstay

Backstay, never bought a suit, never went to Vegas

March 15, 2023

The Justice Department today announced the arrest of Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, also known as Ho Wan Kwok and Miles Guo, charged with defrauding followers of more than $1 billion. The 12-count indictment for wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering says Guo and a co-conspirator, Kin Ming Je, raised money by promising stock in Guo’s GTV Media Group, a high-end club, or cryptocurrency but then used the money themselves for items that included a $53,000 fireplace log holder, a watch storage box that cost almost $60,000, and two $36,000 mattresses, as well as more typical luxury items: a 50,000-square-foot mansion, a Lamborghini, and designer furniture.

The U.S. government seized more than $630 million from multiple bank accounts as well as other assets purchased with illicit money. If convicted, Guo faces up to 20 years in prison. Guo has attracted donors by developing the idea that he is a principled opponent of the Chinese Communist Party, but Dan Friedman, who writes on lobbying and corruption for Mother Jones, points out that this persona appears to be a grift.

Guo is close to sometime Trump ally Steve Bannon, who was reading a book on Guo’s yacht, Lady May, when federal officers arrested him in 2020 for defrauding donors of $25 million in his “We Build the Wall” fundraising campaign. Rather than constructing a wall, Bannon and three associates funneled that money to themselves. Trump pardoned Bannon for that scheme hours before he left office.

Friedman points out that prosecutors say Guo’s criminal conspiracy began in 2018, which is the year that Guo and Bannon launched The Rule of Law Foundation and the Rule of Law Society. They claimed the organizations would defend human rights in China and then, according to prosecutors, lured donors to other products.

In April 2020, Guo and Bannon formed the GTV Media Group, which flooded the news with disinformation before the 2020 election, especially related to Hunter Biden and the novel coronavirus. Sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in September 2021 for the illegal sale of cryptocurrency, GTV paid more than $539 million to settle the case. Bannon’s War Room webcast features Guo performing its theme song.

One of the entities Guo and Bannon created together is the “New Federal State of China,” which sponsored the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

In other money news, Hugo Lowell of The Guardian reported today that $8 million of the loans that bankrolled Trump’s social media platform Truth Social came from two entities that are associated with Anton Postolnikov, a relation of an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin named Aleksandr Smirnov.

Banks continue to writhe, in Europe this time, as Credit Suisse disclosed problems in its reporting and its largest investor, Saudi National Bank, said it would not inject more cash into the institution. The government of Switzerland says it will backstop the bank.

In the U.S., Michael Brown, a venture partner at Shield Capital and former head of the Defense Department’s Defense Innovation Unit, told Marcus Weisgerber and Patrick Tucker of Defense One that the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank had the potential to be a big problem for national security, since a number of the affected start-ups were working on projects for the defense sector. “If you want to kind of knock out the seed corn for the next decade or two of innovative tech, much of which we need for the competition with China, [collapsing SVB] would have been a very effective blow. [Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin] would have been cheering to see so many companies fail.”

Federal and state investigators are looking into the role of Representative George Santos (R-NY) in the sale of a $19 million yacht from one of his wealthy donors to another, for which he collected a broker’s fee. In an interview with Semafor last December, Santos explained that his income had jumped from $55,000 in 2020 to enough money to loan his 2022 campaign $705,000 because he had begun to act as a broker for boat or plane sales. He told Semafor: “If you’re looking at a $20 million yacht, my referral fee there can be anywhere between $200,000 and $400,000.”

Today’s emphasis on money and politics brings to mind the speech then–FBI director Robert Mueller gave in New York in 2011, warning about a new kind of national security threat: “so-called ‘iron triangles’ of organized criminals, corrupt government officials, and business leaders” allied not by religion or political inclinations, but by greed.

It also brings to mind the adamant opposition of then–National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to campaign finance reform in 1997 after he raised a record-breaking amount of money for Republican candidates, saying that political donations are simply a form of free speech. The Supreme Court read that interpretation into law in the 2010 Citizens United decision, but the increasingly obvious links between money, politics, and national security suggest it might be worth revisiting.

Money and politics are in the news in another way today, too, as part of the ongoing budget debates. A letter yesterday from the Congressional Budget Office to Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), answering their questions about how to eliminate the deficit by 2033, says that it is impossible to balance the budget by that year without either raising revenue or cutting either Social Security, Medicare, or defense spending. Even zeroing out all discretionary spending is not sufficient. Led by House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Republicans have promised they can do so, but they have not yet produced a budget. This CBO information makes their job harder.

And finally, today, in Amarillo, Texas, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk held a hearing on the drug mifepristone, used in about half of medically induced abortions. The right-wing “Alliance Defending Freedom,” acting on behalf of antiabortion medical organizations and four doctors, is challenging the approval process the Food and Drug Administration used 22 years ago to argue that the drug should be prohibited. While the approval process took more than four years, it was conducted under an expedited process that speeds consideration of drugs that address life-threatening illnesses. “Pregnancy is not an illness,” senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom Julie Marie Blake said.

And yet mifepristone is commonly used in case of miscarriage and for a number of other medical conditions. And Texas’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review, released in December 2022, concluded that from March 2021 to December 2022, at least 118 deaths in Texas were related to pregnancy. In 2020, 861 deaths in the U.S. were related to pregnancy, up from 754 in 2019.

Public health officials note that extensive research both in the U.S. and in Europe has proven the medication is safe and effective. They warn that a judge’s overturning a drug’s FDA approval 20 years after the fact could upend the country’s entire drug-approval system, as approvals for coronavirus treatments, for example, become plagued by political challenges.

Kacsmaryk was appointed by Trump and is well known for his right-wing views on abortion and same-sex marriage. Initially, he kept the hearing over a nationwide ban on the key drug used for medicated abortion off the docket, and in a phone call last Friday he asked lawyers not to publicize today’s hearing, saying he was concerned about safety. Legal observers were outraged at the attack on judicial transparency—a key part of our justice system—and Chris Geidner of LawDork outlined the many times Kacsmaryk had taken a stand in favor of the “public’s right to know.”

According to Ian Millhiser of Vox, Kacsmaryk let 19 members of the press and 19 members of the public into today’s hearing.


Law Dork with Chris Geidner
Texas judge ignored his own rules to try and keep mifepristone case moves hidden from public
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk doesn’t like information about the cases taking place in his court hidden from the public — except for when he wants the information to be hidden from the public. Kacsmaryk warns people in his court that he “heavily disfavors” sealing matters in cases before him because of the “public’s right to know” — standards that he doesn’t appear to apply to himself…

Read more

3 days ago · 13 likes · 1 comment · Chris Geidner





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Steam Flyer

Sophisticated Yet Humble
Eastern NC
A judge outlawing a medicine for political reasons is a really really REALLY bad idea.

This seems so obvious that even our RWNJ elk should understand and agree. Any bets on where they stand?

billy backstay

Backstay, never bought a suit, never went to Vegas

March 16, 2023 (inital boldface is accidental)​

Yesterday, Tamar Hallerman and Bill Rankin of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, investigating the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election in that state, heard yet another recording of former president Trump pushing a key lawmaker—in this case, Georgia House speaker David Ralston—to convene a special session of the legislature to overturn Biden’s victory.​

One juror recalled that Ralston “basically cut the president off. He said, ‘I will do everything in my power that I think is appropriate.’ … He just basically took the wind out of the sails.” Ralston, who died last November, did not call a special session.

This is the third such recorded call. One was with Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, and another was with the lead investigator in Raffensperger’s office. Ralston had reported the call, but it was not public knowledge that there was a recording of it.

Hallerman and Rankin interviewed five members of the grand jury, which met for 8 months and heard testimony from 75 witnesses. The jurors praised the elections system, and one said, “I tell my wife if every person in America knew every single word of information we knew, this country would not be divided as it is right now.” Another said: “A lot’s gonna come out sooner or later…. And it’s gonna be massive. It’s gonna be massive.”

The special grand jury recommended Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis indict people involved in the attempt to overturn the election. The cases are now in her hands.

Yesterday, prosecutors in New York met with Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress whom Trump allegedly paid $130,000 to keep their sexual liaison quiet. Also yesterday, Trump fixer Michael Cohen testified before a grand jury about the hush-money payment. Cohen’s testimony suggests that Manhattan district attorney Alvin L. Bragg is considering an indictment on a felony charge for misrepresenting the nature of that payment.

Trump has a new lawyer in that case, Joe Tacopina, who has been making the rounds on television shows to insist that Trump isn’t guilty. Tacopina’s job isn’t easy, and he is not necessarily helping, telling MSNBC’s Ari Melber that Trump didn’t actually lie about the hush payment when he lied about it because he was not under oath and he didn’t want to violate a confidentiality agreement.

Also in New York, Trump has asked a judge to delay the $250 million civil case against him, his three oldest children, and the Trump Organization, for manipulating asset valuations to get bank loans and avoid taxes. New York attorney general Letitia James, who brought the suit, said the defendants had had plenty of time to prepare and that Trump is trying to move the case into the election season, at which point he will insist it must be delayed again.

Katelyn Polantz, Paula Reid, Kristen Holmes, and Casey Gannon of CNN reported today that the federal grand jury investigating Trump’s handling of classified documents has interviewed dozens of Mar-a-Lago staff, from servers to attorneys. Special Counsel Jack Smith continues to try to get Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran to testify after prosecutors learned that on June 24, 2022, Trump and Corcoran spoke on the phone as Trump had been ordered to produce the missing documents and the surveillance tapes of the area.

Prosecutors want Corcoran to have to testify despite the attorney-client privilege he claims, using the “crime-fraud exception,” which means that discussions that aided a crime cannot be kept secret.

In the face of this mounting legal pressure, Trump took to video to demand: “The State Department, the defense bureaucracy, the intelligence services, and all of the rest need to be completely overhauled and reconstituted to fire the deep staters.” Then, he said, his people need to finish the process he began of “fundamentally revaluating [sic] NATO’s purpose and NATO’s mission.” “[T]he greatest threat to Western civilization today is not Russia,” he said, but “some of the horrible USA-hating people that represent us.”

This speech was not simply a defense of Russia and its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. In his attempt to undermine the legal cases against him, Trump has endorsed the “post-liberal order” whose adherents reject the American institutions that defend democracy. In their formulation, American institutions they do not control—“the State Department, the defense bureaucracy, the intelligence services, and all of the rest,” for example—are corrupt because they defend the ideas of equality before the law, a free press, religious freedom, and so on. They must be torn down and taken over by true believers who will use the state to enforce their “Christian nationalism.”

In that formulation, the FBI and the Department of Justice are persecuting good Americans who were trying to protect the country on January 6, 2021. And yesterday, Zoe Tillman of Bloomberg reported that Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., sent a letter on October 28 last year to Chief Judge Beryl Howell warning that as many as 1,200 more people could still face charges in connection with the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Today, the House Republicans announced an investigation, run by Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), into the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. The January 6th committee asked Loudermilk to talk to it voluntarily to explain why he gave a tour of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021, a time when the coronavirus had ended public tours. One of the people on that tour showed up on a video the next day threatening lawmakers.

Loudermilk told Scott MacFarlane and Rebecca Kaplan of CBS News that Americans have “very little confidence” in the report of the January 6th committee, “[a]nd there’s good reason. I mean, you even consider what they did to me, the false allegations that they made against me regarding the constituents that I had in my office in the office buildings—accusing me of giving reconnaissance tours.”

Loudermilk, who chairs the House Administration subcommittee on Oversight, says his committee will work “aggressively” to explain why Capitol security failed on January 6 and will seek interviews with people involved, including former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). He says his panel will “be honest, show the truth, show both sides.” Representative Norma Torres (D-CA), the top Democrat on the panel, notes that Loudermilk has not informed the Democrats even of the dates on which the committee is supposed to meet.

Politico’s Heidi Przybyla today reported on a February 2023 “bootcamp” for Republican staffers to learn how to investigate the Biden administration. The camp was sponsored by right-wing organizations including the Conservative Partnership Institute, which is led by Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and other right-wing leaders and which raised $45 million in 2021 alone. Sessions included “Deposing/Interviewing a Witness” and “Managing the News Cycle.”

At one of those investigations yesterday, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who sits on the Homeland Security committee, said she intended to divulge classified information, saying: “I’m not gonna be confidential because I think people deserve to know.” She claimed that drug cartels had left an explosive device on the border; U.S. Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz later posted a picture of the “device” and said it was “a duct-taped ball filled with sand that wasn’t deemed a threat to agents/public.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to administer.

Today, Sanofi, the third major producer of insulin in the United States, announced it will cap prices for insulin at $35 a month. Sanofi, Eli Lilly, and Novo Nordisk produce 90% of the insulin in the U.S. The producers have faced pressure after the Inflation Reduction Act lowered the monthly cost of insulin to $35 a month for those on Medicare.

Twitter avatar for @MarkHertling
MarkHertling @MarkHertling
Flat out performative politics to show she knows something. Simply disgusting behavior by @RepMTG https://t.co/MIDqipkZ5P
Twitter avatar for @RonFilipkowski
Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 @RonFilipkowski
Just Marge Greene divulging classified information at the border hearing. Good thing McCarthy has her on Homeland Security: “I understand Chief Ortiz, but I’m not gonna be confidential because I think people deserve to know.” https://t.co/Z4jNgd34qa
7:59 PM ∙ Mar 15, 2023


Twitter avatar for @RonFilipkowski
Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 @RonFilipkowski
Trump says Russia is not a threat, our greatest threat is our American representatives, we need to reevaluate the purpose of NATO, and most of the people in the State Dept, DOD and Intel Services need to be fired so he can put the right people in. https://t.co/T6FCjIqMtr

trump video link below.....

7:17 PM ∙ Mar 16, 2023

billy backstay

Backstay, never bought a suit, never went to Vegas

March 17, 2023​

Heather Cox Richardson

The International Criminal Court today issued an arrest warrant for Russian president Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Putin’s commissioner for children’s rights, for war crimes: kidnapping Ukrainian children and transporting them to Russia. Russia does not recognize the ICC, which is established at The Hague—the government seat of the Netherlands—and for its part, the Russian government claims its deportation program is humanitarian and patriotic. The international assessment that Putin and one of his top officials have personally engaged in war crimes drives another wedge between Putin and the rest of the Russian people as over time his inability to interact successfully with the rest of the world will have growing consequences for the people at home,

The arrest warrant is unlikely to put Putin in custody any time soon. But an official charge of war crimes will make it harder for other leaders and countries to associate with the Russian regime. Chinese president Xi Jinping is scheduled to travel to Russia next week for his first visit since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Suddenly, that visit, which was fraught enough to begin with, has become more complicated.

Russia promptly announced that Putin and Xi will sign accords ushering in a “new era” of ties, while China’s foreign ministry called the trip “a visit for peace.” But the trip, coming after recent evidence that China has been supplying Russia with war materials, means its involvement with Russia could lead to sanctions against China, a hit that its currently fragile economy can’t easily absorb.

That the warrant focuses on children is also significant. Of the 123 countries that are parties to the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court, 33 are African, 19 are in the Asia-Pacific region, 18 are in Eastern Europe, 28 are in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 25 are in Western Europe and elsewhere. All nations care about children, but the trafficking of children to serve as soldiers, sex slaves, drug mules, and so on, is an especially sensitive issue for many of the parties to the Rome Statute.

The international assessment that Putin has engaged in war crimes is significant in the United States as well, even though the U.S. is not a signatory to the Rome Statute. The American right wing has held up Putin and his attack on the secular values of democracy as a model, saying that his rejection of LGBTQ rights, for example, and his alleged embrace of Christianity show how a modern nation can reclaim what they see as traditional virtue. Putin’s arrest warrant for war crimes, centered in crimes against children, will make it harder to spin his authoritarianism as a virtue, especially as they claim their policies are designed to protect children.

The right-wing rejection of democracy was on display at a meeting of the Federalist Society in early March. Politico’s Ian Ward covered the meeting. The Federalist Society organized in the 1980s to argue that the civil rights decisions of the past several decades corrupted democracy because liberal judges were “legislating from the bench” against the wishes of actual voters. The society’s members claimed to stand for judicial restraint.

But now that their judges are on the bench, they have changed their philosophy. Last summer, after a Supreme Court stacked with Federalist Society members overturned the right to abortion, voters have tried to protect that right in the states. Now, according to Ward, the Federalist Society appears to be shifting away from the idea of judicial restraint in the face of popular votes and toward the idea that judges should “interpret the Constitution” in ways right-wing Americans support. They are quick to claim that democracy is not the answer: it would result, they say, in the tyranny of the majority.

That abandonment of democracy is about more than just voting their folks into office. Right-wing figures frustrated by the secular values of democracy—religious freedom, companies that respond to markets without interference by the state, academic freedom, public schools, free speech, equality before the law—want to restore what they consider human virtue by using the state to enforce their values.

Because they think all aspects of the modern U.S. have been corrupted by liberal democracy, people on the far right are eager to destroy those institutions and replace them. When Trump said, as he did yesterday, that “the greatest threat to Western civilization today is not Russia,” he was echoing this ideology to mobilize his followers (even though his concerns are probably less to do with civilization than with his legal issues). His call for firing “deep staters” and reconstituting “the State Department, the defense bureaucracy, the intelligence services, and all of the rest” is an explicit call to radicalize our government.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, endorsed Trump’s worldview, saying “Trump is absolutely right, our greatest threat currently is right here at home. We must ‘fundamentally change’ by severely reforming the government deep state bureaucracy. They (among many parts of our USG[overnment]) represent a menace to our way of life.” (Flynn’s ties to Russia forced him out of office, and he pleaded guilty to lying about them to the FBI; Trump pardoned him.)

Flynn has been on a far-right road tour across America since shortly after Trump left office, recruiting an “Army of God” to put Christianity at the center of American life and institutions. “At this ReAwaken America Tour, Jesus is King [and] President Donald J. Trump is our president,” a co-organizer, Clay Clark, said.

Kiera Butler of Mother Jones today explained how Flynn and his conspiracy-minded supporters have leveled a hate campaign against Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida, accusing it of killing Covid patients by denying them the horse-deworming drug ivermectin. They have organized a group called The Hollow 2A to help “Americans gather to lawfully take back our country” with guns and activism at the local level. Along with two other groups, they are planning to swamp the hospital board meeting on Monday, acting as a groundswell of local activists protesting hospital malpractice when, in fact, they have joined forces to attack a hospital that adheres to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a government agency.

Today Ohio joined five other Republican-dominated states—Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia, Missouri, and Florida—in leaving the Electronic Registration Information Center, a national data-sharing consortium that updates national voter rolls. Right-wing election deniers say that the bipartisan ERIC is controlled by left-wing groups that enable fraud. Those still belonging to ERIC deny all of the accusations and point out that getting rid of ERIC would get rid of one of the country’s most powerful tools for stopping individuals from voting multiple times, as a number of people from Florida’s The Villages did in 2020.

In a sworn affidavit today, the top lawyer for the Capitol Police said that neither he nor the police chief was informed that anyone other than House members would see the video footage from January 6, 2021, that House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) permitted Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson and his staff to review. Republicans also ignored the Capitol Police’s repeated requests to review and approve all of the footage that Carlson used on his show. Carlson tried to present the attack on the Capitol as a tourist visit as part of his narrative that the FBI and the Department of Justice are corrupt.

But the attempt to destroy the fabric of our government has not yet succeeded. Today, in one of her last rulings before stepping down, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the D.C. District Court ordered Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to testify in the investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents. Howell agreed with Department of Justice prosecutors that discussions between Trump and Corcoran met the threshold for the crime-fraud exception, meaning that they are not covered by attorney-client privilege because they were part of a crime.

Meanwhile, CNN’s John Miller, as well as journalists from many other outlets, reports that sources in law enforcement are telling them that “senior staff members from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the New York State Court Officers—who provide security at the state Supreme Court building in lower Manhattan—and the New York Police Department” have been meeting all week to prepare for a possible indictment of the former president, as early as next week.


Twitter avatar for @OlgaNYC1211
Olga Lautman 🇺🇦 @OlgaNYC1211
This is reprehensible. Important Stories identified 6 stolen children from Mariupol that were thrown on stage w Putin the other day. The global community must do everything to return the tens of thousands of kidnapped Ukrainian children. This is genocide

storage.googleapis.comНа концерте в Лужниках дети благодарили российскую армию за спасение. «Важные истории» нашли этих детейОни из Мариуполя, у двоих под обстрелами погибла мать

6:27 AM ∙ Feb 25, 2023


Twitter avatar for @TimInHonolulu
Tim Hogan 浩勤 @TimInHonolulu
Xi's Monday visit to Russia just got a lot more complicated. With evidence that China is violating sanctions against Russia it's possible that China could face crushing sanctions that would put China's economy in a death spiral. His only smart move is to cancel.

6:46 PM ∙ Mar 17, 2023


Twitter avatar for @RonFilipkowski
Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 @RonFilipkowski
Trump says Russia is not a threat, our greatest threat is our American representatives, we need to reevaluate the purpose of NATO, and most of the people in the State Dept, DOD and Intel Services need to be fired so he can put the right people in. https://t.co/T6FCjIqMtr

7:17 PM ∙ Mar 16, 2023


Twitter avatar for @ZcohenCNN
Zachary Cohen @ZcohenCNN
Notable endorsement of Trump’s message that’s been criticized as pro-Russia by some on right. Flynn doubles down on idea threat comes from so-called deep state, not kind of domestic extremists IC has warned about. Can’t ignore Flynn’s role in trying to overturn 2020 election.

2:15 AM ∙ Mar 17, 2023



Steam Flyer

Sophisticated Yet Humble
Eastern NC
With any luck at all Trump's ass could really be grass for this one.
We all heard the recording of the call to Raffensberger, who was uncooperative but still a Trumpalo (huh?) Now it turns out there are more calls -and- the State of Georgia seems to not let people skate out of subpoenas the way Congress does.

billy backstay

Backstay, never bought a suit, never went to Vegas

March 18, 2023​

Heather Cox Richardson

Rumors that he is about to be indicted in New York in connection with the $130,000 hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels have prompted former president Donald Trump to pepper his alternative social media site with requests for money and to double down on the idea that any attack on him is an attack on the United States.

The picture of America in his posts reflects the extreme version of the virtual reality the Republicans have created since the 1980s. The United States is “THIRD WORLD & DYING,” he wrote. “THE AMERICAN DREAM IS DEAD.” He went on to describe a country held captive by “CRIMINALS & LEFTIST THUGS,” in which immigrants are “FLOODING THROUGH OUR OPEN BOARDERS [sic], MANY FROM PRISONS & MENTAL INSTITUTIONS,” and where the president is “SURROUNDED BY EVIL & SINISTER PEOPLE.” He told his supporters to “SAVE AMERICA” by protesting the arrest he—but no one else—says is coming on Tuesday.

Trump’s false and dystopian portrait of the nation takes to its logical conclusion the narrative Republicans have pushed since the 1980s. Since the days of Reagan, Republicans have argued that people who believe that the government should regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, protect civil rights, and promote infrastructure are destroying the country by trying to redistribute wealth from hardworking white Americans to undeserving minorities and women. Now Trump has taken that argument to its logical conclusion: the country has been destroyed by women, Black Americans, Indigenous people, and people of color, who have taken it over and are persecuting people like him.

This old Republican narrative created a false image of the nation and of its politics, an image pushed to a generation of Americans by right-wing media, a vision that MAGA Republicans have now absorbed as part of their identity. It reflects a manipulation of politics that Russian political theorists called “political technology.”

Russian “political technologists” developed a series of techniques to pervert democracy by creating a virtual political reality through modern media. They blackmailed opponents, abused state power to help favored candidates, sponsored “double” candidates with names similar to those of opponents in order to split their voters and thus open the way for their own candidates, created false parties to create opposition, and, finally, created a false narrative around an election or other event that enabled them to control public debate.

Essentially, they perverted democracy, turning it from the concept of voters choosing their leaders into the concept of voters rubber-stamping the leaders they had been manipulated into backing.

This system made sense in former Soviet republics, where it enabled leaders to avoid the censorship that voters would recoil from by instead creating a firehose of news until people became overwhelmed by the task of trying to figure out what was real and simply tuned out.

But it also fit nicely into American politics, where there is a long history of manipulating voters far beyond the usual political spin. As far back as 1972, Nixon’s operatives engaged in what they called “ratf*cking,” dirty tricks that amounted to political sabotage of their opponents. The different elements of that system became a fundamental part of Republican operations in the 1990s, especially the use of a false narrative spread through talk radio and right-wing television.

More recently, we have seen blackmail (former representative Madison Cawthorn [R-NC] blamed his own party for the release of compromising photos); the use of state power to help candidates (through investigations, for example); double candidates (a Florida Republican won a seat in the state legislature in 2020 after a sham candidate with the same name as the Democratic candidate siphoned voters); and the deliberate creation of a false political reality.

Indeed, David Klepper at AP News reported just yesterday that Russian social media accounts are up to their old tricks in the U.S., pushing the idea that federal authorities have been lying about the true impact of the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment because they want to divert U.S. money from problems at home to Ukraine. “Biden offers food, water, medicine, shelter, payouts of pension and social services to Ukraine! Ohio first! Offer and deliver to Ohio!” one of those accounts posted.

So the United States has had its own version of political technology that overlaps with the Russian version, and it has led to the grim picture Trump is portraying in his attempt to rile up his supporters to protect him.

But here’s what I wonder: What happens when people who have embraced a virtual world begin to figure out it’s fake?

Russians are having to come to grips with their failing economy, world isolation, and rising death rates as President Vladimir Putin throws Russian soldiers into the maw of battle without training or equipment. Now they have to deal with the fact that the International Criminal Court has indicted their president for war crimes. Will they rally around their leader, slide away, or turn against him?

In the United States, MAGA Republicans have been faced with evidence released in the Dominion Voting Systems defamation case against the Fox News Corporation that shows Fox News Channel personalities lied to them. Now those who have cleaved to Trump have to face that he is asking them to risk their freedom to oppose his arrest for paying $130,000 to an adult film actress to keep quiet about their sexual encounter, hardly a noble cause. And the last time he asked people to defend him, more than 1,000 of them—so far—faced arrest and conviction, while he went back to playing golf and asking people for money.

Tonight, Erica Orden of Politico reported that Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg emailed his employees to say “we do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York.” He told them: “Our law enforcement partners will ensure that any specific or credible threats against the office will be fully investigated and that the proper safeguards are in place so all 1,600 of us have a secure work environment.” He also noted, without mentioning specific cases, that his office has been coordinating with the New York Police Department and with the New York court system during certain ongoing investigations.

Some of Trump’s radical supporters have taken to social media to make a plan for surrounding Mar-a-Lago and protecting Trump with firearms, but others appear to be more eager for someone else to show up than to do so themselves.

Ali Alexander, who helped to organize “Stop the Steal” rallies to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election, wrote to his supporters today: “Previously, I had said if Trump was arrested or under the threat of a perp walk, 100,000 patriots should shut down all routes to Mar-a-Lago…. Now I’m retired. I’ll pray for him though!”

I’m not going to link to Trump’s Truth Social postings. But that’s where they are if you want to seek them out.
Twitter avatar for @AdamKinzinger
Adam Kinzinger #fella @AdamKinzinger
Whether this ends up violent or not, these were the type of comments i was seeing pre Jan 6
Twitter avatar for @williamlegate
LeGate🤠 @williamlegate
Trump’s radical supporters are planning on surrounding Mar-a-Lago and using rifles to shoot law enforcement on scene to arrest Trump https://t.co/A8DBJ2B53I

12:04 AM ∙ Mar 19, 2023



billy backstay

Backstay, never bought a suit, never went to Vegas

Steam Flyer

Sophisticated Yet Humble
Eastern NC
From the link above:
Florida governor Ron DeSantis has his own problems with the whole situation (Trump's potential indictment/arrest and his calling for riots). He wants Trump’s voters but does not want to be saddled with a scenario in which Trump tries to hole up at Mar-a-Lago to resist an indictment in New York. Today, DeSantis said he would not get involved in an extradition order, although Florida law allows him to intervene in a contested extradition.

His lack of support for the former president apparently outraged Trump, who promptly accused DeSantis of sexually assaulting a teenaged boy. The tension between the two Republican leaders has prompted speculation that Trump will fight extradition if only to force DeSantis to choose between alienating Trump’s supporters or kowtowing to the former president. Either would wound his presidential hopes, perhaps fatally.

Ha ha on you, silly DeSantis. You knew everything Trump touches dies.

I also thought it was amusing, this past Sunday, to see Pence being his usual puritanesque mealy-mouthed support of Trump left hanging when he -said- he supported Trump against the charges and the interviewer reminded him that Trump admitted he had done everything he's potentially charged with, behavior that should be extremely objectionable to an actual Christian. I wonder what they cut from that scene!

billy backstay

Backstay, never bought a suit, never went to Vegas

Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters today that China and Russia would both like “to see the rest of the world play by their rules rather than the ones that…are enshrined in the U.N. Charter and what everybody else is…following.” Kirby said the White House sees the relationship of Xi and Putin as a “marriage of convenience.”

And, if re-elected, the defeated ex-President would live to make it a three-way.

billy backstay

Backstay, never bought a suit, never went to Vegas

Bus Driver

Bacon Quality Control Specialist
"This week, news has been focused on the former president’s possible indictment for paying $130,000 in hush money to adult film performer Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their 2006 affair before the 2016 election. The information currently being thrown about has been shaped by Trump himself and is obviously suspect (among other things, he has apparently raised $1.5 million since he claimed he would be arrested on Tuesday)."

He lies. And, they open their wallets. Give 'til it hurts, rubes. Then, give a little more.

billy backstay

Backstay, never bought a suit, never went to Vegas
I think it is very funny that the press continues to refer to Trumps one night stand, sexual liaison, with Stormy Daniels as an "affair"!! Did he take her to dinner and buy her jewelry first?? :ROFLMAO:

March 23, 2023​

Heather Cox Richardson

While the latest machinations from Trump are taking up oxygen, the debt ceiling crisis hasn’t gone away. Indeed, just as it is becoming more and more urgent, Republican far-right extremists are becoming more committed to using the opportunity to blow up the economy as a way to get their wishes.

The uncertainty that followed the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank illustrated just how quick and how dangerous even a relatively minor banking crisis could be, but far-right Republicans are not backing off on their threat to refuse to raise the debt ceiling without concessions from Democrats. Two months ago, in response to a question about “whether you think this debt ceiling is going to be used as a bargaining chip in some way that could turn dangerous?” the chair of the House Budget Committee, Jodey Arrington (R-TX), said, “I believe it will and I believe it has to.”

Now, in the wake of the banking crisis, Arrington says the uncertainty after the banking instability means that “[t]his is the best time to do it.” Republicans are arguing that the inflation of the past year is the result of pandemic-era spending and that by threatening the debt ceiling, they can bring that spending under control.

But let’s be very clear on this: the debt ceiling is not about future spending. It is about the amount of money Congress authorizes the Treasury to borrow in order to pay obligations that already exist. It is not associated with any individual bill, and it is not an appropriation for any specific program. It enables the government to borrow money to pay for programs in bills already passed. If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling when necessary, the government will default on its debts, sparking a financial catastrophe.

Future spending is in the government’s annual budget. The budget process starts when the president submits a detailed budget request to Congress for the fiscal year that starts on October 1, usually by the first Monday in February, though sometimes that is delayed (as it was this year). The president’s budget shows what the administration thinks is important to fund and how much that will cost.

Congress is then supposed to consider the president’s budget, hold hearings to ask administration officials why they need certain items or have gotten rid of others, and then develop its own plan. This budget resolution, as it is called, sets amounts that Congress thinks are appropriate for different parts of the budget. Congress is supposed to pass that budget resolution by April 15 (even though it rarely does). Appropriations bills then fund the items in the budget.

President Biden introduced his detailed budget on March 9, deliberately using it as a way to signal his determination to use the government to help ordinary Americans rather than the wealthy and corporations. He is operating under the belief that the economy grows fastest and does better for most people when the government invests in jobs, education, and social services rather than when it tries to free up as much capital as possible for wealthy investors. This is the Republican plan, which is based on the idea that the wealthy will invest in the economy and create jobs. Biden called for funding programs—while also cutting the deficit—by rolling back the Republicans' 2017 tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, by imposing a 25% tax on billionaires, and by raising the tax on stock buybacks.

Republicans have attacked Biden’s budget, but they have not produced one of their own. They likely can’t produce one, because the only way for House Republicans to deliver the cost savings they have promised is to cut Social Security and Medicare, cuts they have advocated for years. But at his State of the Union address, when prominent Republicans yelled that he was a liar for suggesting they wanted to cut those popular programs, Biden backed them into vowing not to cut them.

Then, earlier this month, in response to a request from Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Congressional Budget Office wrote that if the Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations stay in place as Republicans wish and defense spending, Social Security, Medicare, and veterans’ programs are all protected—as Republicans now say they want to do—even zeroing out all other discretionary spending in the budget will not balance it by 2033.

Arrington and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) say they will release the Republican budget after April 15, blaming Biden’s own late budget for their delay. But because they have not launched an official plan, they have left an opening for the far-right House Freedom Caucus of around three dozen lawmakers to step into the gap.

On March 10, Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) was in front as members of the Freedom Caucus issued a statement laying out the demands they want met before they will consider raising the debt ceiling. They want laws that cut current spending by stopping student loan relief, clawing back all unspent Covid-19 funds, and repealing the $80 billion in appropriations for the Internal Revenue Service and all the monies appropriated by the Inflation Reduction Act for addressing climate change. They want to cap future spending at 2022 levels, claiming a cap will cut “the wasteful, woke, and weaponized federal bureaucracy.” They demand further business deregulation and more work requirements on programs like Medicaid.

If all that gets written into law, Freedom Caucus members “will consider voting to raise the debt ceiling.” Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), whose 11-point plan to “rescue America” was the one Biden pointed to most frequently as a Republican plan to cut Social Security and Medicare because it called for every law to end in five years and have to be repassed, said he was “very optimistic” about the Freedom Caucus’s plan. Just this week, McCarthy added the idea of tying changes to the permitting process for oil and mining development to the debt ceiling.

But, in fact, the things the Republicans call for are not popular in the country, and the administration has been laying out piece by piece how the devastating cuts in the proposal would impact families, consumers, the elderly, and working Americans, all to increase tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.

In any case, while it claims to be eager to negotiate over the budget, the Biden White House maintains it will not negotiate over the debt ceiling, especially as the current financial woes are attributable in large part to the explosion of the deficit and debt under Trump. Republicans seem hell-bent on doing so, expecting that the Democrats will ultimately back down rather than permit the Republicans to destroy the economy. In the past, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has managed to bring Republicans around, but now he is out of commission from his fall.

It is against this backdrop that Republicans have rushed to defend Trump, who is pretty clearly trying to whip up his supporters to violence. His antics have gotten so extreme that he posted an image today of Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg beside an image of himself brandishing a baseball bat. Today, citing Trump’s apparent calls for violence, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ordered that the jurors in the case of E. Jean Carroll’s rape accusations against Trump be kept anonymous for their own safety. The case goes to trial next month.

Republicans seem to be working with Trump to keep him in the news, perhaps aware that he is drowning out both the debt ceiling crisis and their inability to produce a budget.

Three days ago, Jim Jordan (R-OH), James Comer (R-KY), and Bryan Steil (R-WI) demanded that Bragg deliver to them all information related to his investigation into Trump. Today the Manhattan DA’s general counsel Leslie B. Dubeck correctly called their demand an “unprecedented” federal intrusion into an independent local investigation that unlawfully undermined New York’s sovereignty. She added: “The Letter only came after Donald Trump created a false expectation that he would be arrested the next day and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene. Neither fact is a legitimate basis for congressional inquiry.” She noted that Trump’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, had written a letter to Jordan encouraging Congress to investigate Bragg.

Now a different case is suddenly imperiling Trump. Yesterday a federal appeals court ruled that Trump attorney Evan Corcoran must turn over records to Special Counsel Jack Smith and testify before the grand jury in the investigation into Trump’s theft of classified documents. Judge Beryl Howell said last week that Trump could not use attorney-client privilege to block Corcoran’s participation because prosecutors in Smith’s office had shown sufficient evidence to support the claim that Trump had committed a crime, triggering the “crime-fraud” exception to attorney-client privilege. Trump’s lawyers appealed, and the appeals court agreed with Howell.

A Trump spokesperson told ABC News: "There is no factual or legal basis or substance to any case against President Trump."

Corcoran is testifying tomorrow.

Twitter avatar for @JesseLee46
Jesse Lee @JesseLee46
There you have it… @andrewrsorkin: “The question that I’d ask you is whether you think this debt ceiling is going to be used as a bargaining chip in a way that could turn dangerous?” House GOP Budget Chair @RepArrington: “I believe it will and I believe it has to.”

11:59 PM ∙ Jan 30, 2023



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billy backstay

Backstay, never bought a suit, never went to Vegas

The GQP Clown Car could not be any more dysfunctional!!!

"...today when a reporter said to House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that the chair of the House Budget Committee, Jodey Arrington (R-TX), had said that he and McCarthy were finalizing a list of proposals to give to President Biden about spending cuts, McCarthy answered: “I don’t know what he’s talking about.”"
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Steam Flyer

Sophisticated Yet Humble
Eastern NC

The GQP Clown Car could not be any more dysfunctional!!!

"...today when a reporter said to House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that the chair of the House Budget Committee, Jodey Arrington (R-TX), had said that he and McCarthy were finalizing a list of proposals to give to President Biden about spending cuts, McCarthy answered: “I don’t know what he’s talking about.”"

This is too good to not post:

March 24, 2023

Heather Cox Richardson

10 hr ago

A follow-up to last night’s examination of the confusion among the Republicans about their budget plans: today when a reporter said to House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that the chair of the House Budget Committee, Jodey Arrington (R-TX), had said that he and McCarthy were finalizing a list of proposals to give to President Biden about spending cuts, McCarthy answered: “I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
Noise also continues from former president Donald Trump, who early this morning posted on social media that his indictment could lead to “potential death & destruction”; hours later, Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg received a death threat in an envelope with white powder in it. For three days this week, Russian accounts have emailed bomb threats to the court buildings where the grand jury is meeting.
Tomorrow, Trump will hold a rally in Waco, Texas, where a 1993 government siege to extricate the leader of a religious cult who witnesses said was stockpiling weapons led to a gun battle and a fire that left seventy-six people dead.
Although a Republican investigation cited “overwhelming evidence” that exonerated the government of wrongdoing, right-wing talk radio hosts jumped on the events at Waco to attack the administration of Democratic president Bill Clinton. Rush Limbaugh stoked his listeners’ anger with talk of the government’s “murder” of citizens, and Alex Jones dropped out of community college to start a talk show on which he warned that the government had “murdered” the people at Waco and was about to impose martial law.
After the Waco siege the modern militia movement took off, and Trump is clearly using the anniversary to tap into domestic violence against the government to defend him in advance of possible indictments.
But will it work? His supporters turned out on January 6, 2021, when he was president and had the power—they thought—to command the army to back him. In the end, that didn’t happen. Since then, Trump’s foot soldiers have been going to prison while he dines at Mar-a-Lago and rails about how unfairly he has been treated.
Trump is also in more trouble today, as Judge Beryl Howell ruled last week that Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, former director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe, former top Department of Homeland Security official Ken Cuccinelli, former national security advisor Robert O'Brien, former top aide Stephen Miller, former deputy chief of staff and social media director Dan Scavino, and former Trump aides Nick Luna and John McEntee all have to testify before the federal grand jury investigating Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Special counsel Jack Smith had subpoenaed these members of the Trump administration, and Trump had tried to stop their testimony by claiming it was covered by executive privilege. Howell rejected that claim. In the past, she rejected a similar claim by arguing that only the current president has the right to claim executive privilege and Biden had declined to do so. Meadows is the key witness to Trump’s involvement in the events of January 6.
Also today, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a repeal of so-called right-to-work legislation passed in 2012 by a Republican-controlled legislature, whose members pushed it through in a lame-duck session without hearings.
That legislation had a long history. U.S. employers had opposed workers’ unions since the organization of the National Labor Union in 1866, but the rise of international communism in the early twentieth century provoked a new level of violence against organized workers. In 1935, as part of the New Deal, Democrats passed the National Labor Relations Act, popularly known as the Wagner Act, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed it into law.
The Wagner Act confirmed workers’ right to organize and to bargain with employers collectively (although to appease southern Democrats, it exempted domestic and agricultural workers, who in the South were mostly Black). It also defined unfair labor practices and established a new National Labor Relations Board that could issue cease and desist orders if workers testified that employers were engaging in them.
The Wagner Act gave workers a unified voice in American politics and leveled the playing field between them and employers. But while most Americans of both parties liked the Wagner Act, right-wing Republicans hated it because it put large sums of money into the hands of labor officials, who used the money to influence politics. And organized workers had backed Democrats since the 1860s.
So, in 1947, a Republican-led Congress pushed back against the Wagner Act. The previous year, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) had launched “Operation Dixie” to organize Black workers, which seemed a threat to segregation as well as white employers. Together, business Republicans and segregationist Democrats passed the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, better known as the Taft-Hartley Act. Ohio Senator Robert Taft (who was the son of President William Howard Taft) claimed that the Taft-Hartley Act would simply equalize power between workers and employers after the “completely one-sided” Wagner Act gave all the power to labor leaders.
The Taft-Hartley Act limited the ways in which workers could organize; it also went after unions’ money. Although the Wagner Act had established that if a majority of a company’s workers voted to join a union, that union would represent all the workers in the company, it didn’t require all the workers to join that union. That presented a problem: if workers were going to get the benefits of union representation without joining, why should they bother to pay dues?
So labor leaders began to require that everyone employed in a unionized company must pay into the union to cover the cost of bargaining, whether or not they joined the union.
The Taft-Hartley Act undermined this workaround by permitting states to get rid of the requirement that employees who didn’t join a union that represented them must pay fees to the union.
Immediately, states began to pass so-called right-to-work laws. Their supporters argued that every man should have the right to bargain for his work on whatever terms he wanted, without oversight by a union. But lawmakers like Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), who pushed a right-to-work law in his own state, were clear that they were intent on breaking the power of organized workers. He was determined to destroy the political power of unions because, he said, their leaders were stealing American freedom. They were, he said, “more dangerous than Soviet Russia.”
Michigan had been known as a pro-union state, but in 2012, Republicans there pushed through two right-to-work laws over waves of protest. Repealing the laws has been a priority for Democrats, and now that they are in control of state government, they have made it happen.
Joey Cappelletti of the Associated Press notes that twenty-six states currently have right to work laws, and although Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected a right-to-work law in 2017, it has been 58 years since a state repealed one. Indiana voters repealed theirs in 1965; Republicans put it back into place in 2012.
Republicans say that since the neighboring states of Indiana and Wisconsin have right-to-work laws—although there were huge protests when those laws went into place in 2012 and 2015—Michigan’s repeal of right to work will make that state less attractive to employers.
But after signing the law today, Governor Whitmer embraced a different vision for the state, saying: "Today, we are coming together to restore workers' rights, protect Michiganders on the job, and grow Michigan's middle class."

Twitter avatar for @Acyn
Acyn @Acyn
Reporter: Arrington said you were finalizing a list of proposals to give to Biden about spending cuts McCarthy: I don’t know what he’s talking about

3:45 PM ∙ Mar 24, 2023



Steam Flyer

Sophisticated Yet Humble
Eastern NC
A brief summary-
Republicans don't have a budget and apparently are not even working on one.

Trump is holding a rally at Waco, hoping to stir up a civil war to avoid being jailed by the USA. Russian troll farms working to help him.

V3/B2 take note- Democrats have passed many laws supporting workers' safety and workers' rights, Republicans have repealed them. The long history of this back-and-forth reveals at least some of this is based on racism... surprise, surprise.

billy backstay

Backstay, never bought a suit, never went to Vegas

March 25, 2023​

Heather Cox Richardson

On March 25, 1911, Frances Perkins was visiting with a friend who lived near Washington Square in New York City when they heard fire engines and screams. They rushed out to the street to see what the trouble was. A fire had broken out in a garment factory on the upper floors of a building on Washington Square, and the blaze ripped through the lint in the air. The only way out was down the elevator, which had been abandoned at the base of its shaft, or through an exit to the roof. But the factory owner had locked the roof exit that day because, he later testified, he was worried some of his workers might steal some of the blouses they were making.

“The people had just begun to jump when we got there,” Perkins later recalled. “They had been holding until that time, standing in the windowsills, being crowded by others behind them, the fire pressing closer and closer, the smoke closer and closer. Finally the men were trying to get out this thing that the firemen carry with them, a net to catch people if they do jump, the[y] were trying to get that out and they couldn’t wait any longer. They began to jump. The…weight of the bodies was so great, at the speed at which they were traveling that they broke through the net. Every one of them was killed, everybody who jumped was killed. It was a horrifying spectacle.”

By the time the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was out, 147 young people were dead, either from their fall from the factory windows or from smoke inhalation.

Perkins had few illusions about industrial America: she had worked in a settlement house in an impoverished immigrant neighborhood in Chicago and was the head of the New York office of the National Consumers League, urging consumers to use their buying power to demand better conditions and wages for workers. But even she was shocked by the scene she witnessed on March 25.

By the next day, New Yorkers were gathering to talk about what had happened on their watch. “I can't begin to tell you how disturbed the people were everywhere,” Perkins said. “It was as though we had all done something wrong. It shouldn't have been. We were sorry…. We didn't want it that way. We hadn’t intended to have 147 girls and boys killed in a factory. It was a terrible thing for the people of the City of New York and the State of New York to face.”

The Democratic majority leader in the New York legislature, Al Smith—who would a few years later go on to four terms as New York governor and become the Democratic presidential nominee in 1928—went to visit the families of the dead to express his sympathy and his grief. “It was a human, decent, natural thing to do,” Perkins said, “and it was a sight he never forgot. It burned it into his mind. He also got to the morgue, I remember, at just the time when the survivors were being allowed to sort out the dead and see who was theirs and who could be recognized. He went along with a number of others to the morgue to support and help, you know, the old father or the sorrowing sister, do her terrible picking out.”

“This was the kind of shock that we all had,” Perkins remembered.

The next Sunday, concerned New Yorkers met at the Metropolitan Opera House with the conviction that “something must be done. We've got to turn this into some kind of victory, some kind of constructive action….” One man contributed $25,000 to fund citizens’ action to “make sure that this kind of thing can never happen again.”

The gathering appointed a committee, which asked the legislature to create a bipartisan commission to figure out how to improve fire safety in factories. For four years, Frances Perkins was their chief investigator.

She later explained that although their mission was to stop factory fires, “we went on and kept expanding the function of the commission 'till it came to be the report on sanitary conditions and to provide for their removal and to report all kinds of unsafe conditions and then to report all kinds of human conditions that were unfavorable to the employees, including long hours, including low wages, including the labor of children, including the overwork of women, including homework put out by the factories to be taken home by the women. It included almost everything you could think of that had been in agitation for years. We were authorized to investigate and report and recommend action on all these subjects.”

And they did. Al Smith was the speaker of the house when they published their report, and soon would become governor. Much of what the commission recommended became law.

Perkins later mused that perhaps the new legislation to protect workers had in some way paid the debt society owed to the young people who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. “The extent to which this legislation in New York marked a change in American political attitudes and policies toward social responsibility can scarcely be overrated,” she said. “It was, I am convinced, a turning point.”

But she was not done. In 1919, over the fervent objections of men, Governor Smith appointed Perkins to the New York State Industrial Commission to help weed out the corruption that was weakening the new laws. She continued to be one of his closest advisers on labor issues. In 1929, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt replaced Smith as New York governor, he appointed Perkins to oversee the state’s labor department as the Depression worsened. When President Herbert Hoover claimed that unemployment was ending, Perkins made national news when she repeatedly called him out with figures proving the opposite and said his “misleading statements” were “cruel and irresponsible.” She began to work with leaders from other states to figure out how to protect workers and promote employment by working together.

In 1933, after the people had rejected Hoover’s plan to let the Depression burn itself out, President-elect Roosevelt asked Perkins to serve as Secretary of Labor in his administration. She accepted only on the condition that he back her goals: unemployment insurance, health insurance, old-age insurance, a 40-hour work week, a minimum wage, and abolition of child labor. She later recalled: “I remember he looked so startled, and he said, ‘Well, do you think it can be done?’”

She promised to find out.

Once in office, Perkins was a driving force behind the administration’s massive investment in public works projects to get people back to work. She urged the government to spend $3.3 billion on schools, roads, housing, and post offices. Those projects employed more than a million people in 1934.

In 1935, FDR signed the Social Security Act, providing ordinary Americans with unemployment insurance; aid to homeless, dependent, and neglected children; funds to promote maternal and child welfare; and public health services.

In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established a minimum wage and maximum hours. It banned child labor.

Frances Perkins, and all those who worked with her, transformed the horror of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire into the heart of our nation’s basic social safety net.

“There is always a large horizon…. There is much to be done,” Perkins said. “It is up to you to contribute some small part to a program of human betterment for all time.”






Matthew and Hannah Josephson, Al Smith: Hero of the Cities, A Political Portrait Drawing on the Papers of Frances Perkins (London: Thames and Hudson, 1969).