Daily Kos

Here's the insane amount Republican orgs spent buying GOP books to pad best-seller lists last election cycle

The problem with having a base that isn't particularly interested in reading anything more than a headline is that it is hard to sell books to those folks. You couple that with holding and promoting wildly unpopular positions on health care, foreign policy, economics, race, and justice, and a proclivity to act morally hypocritical and you are creating the kinds of conditions most book publishers would shy away from. Add to that most of the things you say are factually incorrect, a potential lawsuit in the waiting for a publisher, and it is a wonder how any of these conservative jokes get publishing deals in the first place.

However, the conservative oligarchy-bubble has figured a way around promoting an unpopular product—buy the perception that it isn't popular. For some time news outlets have reported on the self-dealing, bulk-book buying tendencies of campaigns and Republican committees, that help propel books by people from people like Sens. Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, and cosmic embarrassment Donald Trump Jr., access to national best-seller lists. Being on a best-seller list—especially from one of the Republican proclaimed fake news sites like the Washington Post or the New York Times, can boost your sales further being the premiere advertisement for literature and nonfiction in the United States.

The Washington Post did a report on the shady-quality of this practice, pointing out that "Four party-affiliated organizations, including the Republican National Committee, collectively spent more than $1 million during the past election cycle mass-purchasing books written by GOP candidates, elected officials and personalities, according to Federal Election Commission expenditure reports." The practice is not simply deceitful in promoting a false sense of popularity for unpopular ideas, but because authors of books make serious money if they can get on best-seller lists off of royalties from hundreds of thousands of dollars in book sales.

One of the more well-publicized self-dealings in recent months was Texas's answer to intelligence, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, whose book got a $400,000 boost in sales from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). The NRCC defended its purchase of Crenshaw's book, saying that it had fundraised no less than three times the amount off of the book (signed copies, etc.), making it a legitimate purchase. But the Republican former Navy SEAL, who holds an elected office based almost entirely on the truly twisted Republican gerrymandering of a Texas district, was able to point to his best-seller status as proof of the popularity of his opinions.

Trump Jr., his dad the Donald, truly unpopular Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, unpopular China-phobe Sen. Tom Cotton, and Capitol building insurgent supporter Sen. Josh Hawley all got lucky with bulk purchases of their books this past election cycle according to the Post. Hawley's big pre-buy got sidetracked when Simon & Schuster canceled the book deal with Hawley for his sweeping endorsements of anti-Democratic, fact-free election fraud charges—though he forgot to mention he likely kept some of the advance while he whined about freedom of speech.

Tom Cotton, best-known for being a slimmer, cleaner-shaven, and more hawkish version of Ted Cruz, seems to have received quite a bit of help from political action committee the Senate Conservatives Fund. According to the Post, they spent close to $90,000 buying Cotton's book—the title of which is something like Soldier Duty, Soldier soldier, duty duty, I hate China and Democracy. Coincidentally, this was the same PAC that threw $65,000 at "Regnery Publishing, [Ted] Cruz's publisher, for advance copies of Hawley's forthcoming book."

Last week, campaign finance watchdog Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint against Sen. Ted Cruz, with the Federal Election Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee. Highlighting Cruz's 15% royalty rate and his campaign's expenditure of around $18,000 on Facebook ads promoting his book, the complaint accuses Cruz of violating "the ban on the personal use of campaign funds at 52 U.S.C. § 30114(b)(1)." The complaint also reminds the two committees that the evidence they are presenting is just the Facebook advertisements and there might very well be Cruz campaign expenditures promoting his garbage tome on other platforms.

In the three months following the publication of Cruz's book, Ted Cruz for Senate paid third-party booksellers Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble over $154,000 for "books." Other Facebook ads offered supporters a signed copy of the book in exchange for a contribution (while also urging viewers to "pre-order a copy today at Amazon or your local book retailer") and linked to a Ted Cruz for Senate fundraising page.

This isn't news for Ted Cruz, who has long bent, if not broke, the laws of campaigning and campaign finance. His interest in honesty has never existed and he has never shown the slightest of moral compunctions. And while Ted Cruz may technically be considered more intelligent than someone like Donald Trump Jr., the two men participate in identical cynical and corrupt behavior. In Junior's case, it's his actual daddy that helps pay for his lack of popularity, while in Ted Cruz's case, it's the Republican Party machine and his own campaign that he treats like a rich daddy.

Technically, the issue here is that Ted Cruz's campaign did not bulk buy directly through the publisher. The reason why this is important is that this issue has long been understood to be a thorny problem, and the FEC has made rulings on it dating back to 2014. Buying directly from the publisher, according to the FEC, allows the publisher to count those sales outside of the sales of books that they owe royalties to authors for. Cruz's campaign spent thousands directly through retailers. This makes it much more like that Cruz's royalty payouts got a direct personal bank account boost from his own campaign's funds. He's not the only one, as everybody's favorite know-nothing-at-all Dan Crenshaw's book got almost a quarter of a million in sales from a retail direct purchase by the NRCC.

Before you let that friend of yours that says chem-trails control the weather chime in, the Post explains that this level of bulk-buying, padding out the book sales, is largely a GOP "phenomenon."

How Biden is capitalizing on the growing rift between American businesses and the GOP

As the decades-long bond between Republicans and corporate America sours, the Biden White House is seeking to take full advantage of the schism and the openings it leaves for Democrats.

Although President Joe Biden is seeking to raise the corporate tax rate in order to partially fund his jobs and infrastructure bill, the administration is simultaneously reaching out to the business community as a reasonable alternative to a toxic Republican Party.

Even as Biden unveiled his American Jobs Plan calling for a seven-point corporate tax increase to 28%, White House officials were briefing the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and four other big bank chiefs on the proposal, according to the Washington Post. In the following 24 hours, top White House aides courted influential business lobby groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, a group of high-powered business executives.

The result hasn't been total cooperation, but it has led to both a muted and splintered response from the business community. The Chamber, for instance, said it supports the investment but not the corporate tax hikes, while a big tech interest group led by Amazon, Facebook, and Google has effectively embraced the whole plan, calling it "A deal the tech industry can embrace: Pay more taxes, get better infrastructure."

What corporations are now weighing is whether they want to deal with a stable party of adults with which they can negotiate or a bunch of mercurial self-interested opportunists who might blindside them at any given moment. Whether it's Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatening "consequences," Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas condemning Major League Baseball, or Gov. Ron DeSantis vowing to "fight back" against "woke" corporations "colluding" with the left, it's all part of the same volatile beast that is the GOP.

Republicans can't seem to decide whether they're coming or going, which makes for a very uncertain business environment. Even within the same Post article, GOP operatives were all over the place on how to handle corporate America.

"It's a thankless job defending corporate America," complained Brian Riedl, a former aide to Sen. Rob Portman. Riedl, who now works for the Manhattan Institute, added, "When I talk to Republicans, they are really, really frustrated about this. They are exhausted from defending the 2017 tax cuts from attacks that it was too tilted to the rich and don't see political upside in defending low taxes for corporations."

In fact, Republicans are so exhausted by defending all the terrible policies they've enacted on behalf of corporations, why even bother?

"If these corporations want to act like mini-governments and they're going to throw in with the other side nonstop, we should stop pretending they're our allies," said Andrew Surabian, a Republican strategist. "If they're not our allies, why would we ever waste any political capital on them for some of the very unpopular things they want to get done in government?"

On the other hand, Democrats' bid to raise the corporate tax rate is supposedly energizing the GOP.

"Regardless of what the business community does, Republicans will never not be energized to run against Democrats who raise your taxes," a senior Senate Republican aide told the Post.

Oh, and once again with the argument that Democrats are still the real threat, even if Republicans did help inspire a deadly insurrection at the Capitol.

"After the riots on January 6, I told people, why don't you wait and see what the new president's policies are and that should direct your giving?" said Lisa Spies, a GOP fundraiser. "You should just focus on the policies."

Yeah, whatever you do, don't actually listen to what Republicans are saying—just focus on the policies.

So Republicans are apparently sick and tired of doing all the heavy lifting for corporate America, but still enthused by fighting tax increases—and can still be bought off far more reliably than Democrats. It doesn't exactly sound like everyone is singing from the same song sheet.

As for Democrats, there seems to be a lot more consensus. The general view of the White House and Democratic strategists is that raising the corporate tax rate several points isn't a dealbreaker for the business community given all the benefits it will reap from a revolutionary upgrade to the nation's infrastructure.

"A raise from 21 to 25 — which is where [West Virginia Sen. Joe] Manchin has put the marker at — is not going to create mass hysteria, particularly when many corporations had an economic boom during the pandemic," said Jefrey Pollock, president of Global Strategy Group, a Democratic public relations and polling firm.

Former Congressman Barney Frank, who served as chair of the House Financial Services Committee, agrees with that sentiment, noting that the corporate community prizes the stability Democrats are offering over the populist whims now guiding Republican politicians.

"The business community—responsible elements of the business community—have figured out it's in their interest to help defuse angry populism," Frank said. "They're not afraid of Joe Biden. Biden does not say they're bad people, and that's a large part of it. But they're also not as afraid of what Democrats will do. They're much more afraid of the Republicans."

'Impeach and remove Maxine Waters': New York Post condemns Democrat as violent. What about the police?

Far-right commentators tried to rebrand calls to action as quests for violence on Sunday following statements from both CNN host Chris Cuomo and Rep. Maxine Waters about the need for police reform. Days before closing arguments are set to begin on Monday in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, Cuomo said Friday on his show "Cuomo Prime Time: "Shootings, gun laws, access to weapons. Oh, I know when they'll change. Your kids start getting killed, white people's kids start getting killed."

The anchor said only then will white parents start asking: "'What is going on with these police? Maybe we shouldn't even have police.'"

Cuomo made the statements on the fifth night of protests following the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, who former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter shot and killed allegedly when she reached for a Taser but grabbed a gun instead. Wright was killed some 10 miles away from the courthouse where Chauvin's trial is being held. Waters, of California, joined protesters demanding justice and change on Saturday night in Minnesota. "We've got to stay in the street, and we've got to demand justice," she told the crowd. Demonstrators protested well into the early morning on Sunday despite a curfew in effect from 11 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday.

"We've got to get more active," Waters said. "We've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business." With those words, supporters of former President Donald Trump, journalists included, seemed to have a field day.


"Democrats actively encouraging riots & violence. They want to tear us apart," Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted. Rep. Lauren Boebert added: "Why is Maxine Waters traveling to a different state trying to incite a riot? What good can come from this?" Political commentator Tim Pool asked in a tweet on Sunday: "More confrontational than burning down buildings?"

One social media user @MVP28_ responded: "Nah, more confrontational than storming the Capitol building and killing a police officer." Another who goes by Sean Fisher tweeted: "Question: do you think it's confrontational for police to murder unarmed citizens?" He didn't get an answer from Pool or the other Trump apologists making similar claims, more notably among them the New York Post's editorial board. The journalists interpreted Waters' interview as "trying to create a Civil War," and they described her words as "irresponsible rhetoric" in an article with the headline 'Impeach and remove Maxine Waters.'

"In supporting the second impeachment of President Trump, California Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters said he was 'inciting' his followers, and was 'trying to create a Civil War.' By her own standards, Maxine Waters should be impeached and removed," the Post's editorial staffers wrote. I find it curious to say the least that no such outrage is expressed regarding the actual details of George Floyd's death, but "rioting, looting, graffiti" is outright condemned by the Post. The entire editorial board actually seems to value the integrity of walls more than a Black man's life.

Chauvin kneeled on Floyd for more than nine minutes while the Black father called for his mother and repeatedly said he couldn't breathe. The cop is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, and he spoke live for the first time in court on Thursday to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. "This is guilty for murder," Waters said. "I don't know whether it's in the first-degree, but as far as I'm concerned, it's first-degree murder." The congresswoman said she would like to see a police reform bill passed in Congress but "the right wing, the racists are opposed to it."

Black men and women have been shot down and killed by police for decades, and Republicans are condemning a legislator who called out the atrocities and an anchor who pointed out their hypocrisy. "See, now (if) Black people start getting all guns, forming militias, 'protect themselves. You can't trust deep state,'" Cuomo said, describing the exact behaviors of Trump supporters. "Whoo who, you'll see a wave of change in access and accountability. We saw it in the 60s. That's when it changes cuz that's when it's you."

WARNING: This video contains video clips that may be triggering to some readers.

CNN's Chris Cuomo talks police reform www.youtube.com

It's a point similar to one activist Tamika Mallory made in the days immediately following Floyd's death on May 25, 2020. "Don't talk to us about looting," she said in a simply inspired speech. "Y'all are the looters. America has looted Black people. America looted the Native Americans when they first came here. So looting is what you do. We learned it from you. We learned violence from you. We learned violence from you.

"The violence was what we learned from you. So if you want us to do better, than damnit you do better."

Will Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot resign? These activists hope so

Activists are calling for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to resign after her mishandling of two different cases involving Chicago police. Lightfoot, who is both the first Black woman to lead the city and the first LGBTQ person to do so, twice suggested that 13-year-old Adam Toledo was killed because he was holding a gun despite later released police body-camera footage that showed Adam was unarmed when he was shot. The mayor was also accused of trying to prevent the public release of horrific video showing police raiding the wrong home and subjecting Anjanette Young, a Black social worker, to unimaginable dehumanization despite her telling officers 43 times that they were in the wrong home. She was handcuffed naked with police body cameras rolling.

Filmmaker and activist Bree Newsome tweeted on Thursday: "Lori Lightfoot's office buried footage of police raiding a Black woman's home & terrorizing her while she was left unclothed. Never forget" Alex Sammon, a staff writer at the progressive policy analysis site The Prospect, similarly condemned Lightfoot on Thursday for her handling of Adam's death. "Lori Lightfoot told the city of Chicago and the entire country that Adam Toledo was holding a gun in his hand when he was murdered by the cops. She saw that same video we all saw. She must resign immediately or be removed from office," he tweeted. To be fair, Lightfoot's remarks in Adam's case were less direct than her critics allege, but her complacency in the face of appalling misrepresentations from police officials was every bit as damaging.

Body-camera footage shows that after running from police on March 29, 2021, Adam had followed an officer's command to stop and show his hands, when the officer identified as Eric Stillman shot the child anyway. He was unarmed at that point although Adam was said to have dropped a gun he was holding before Stillman shot him.

Police described Adam as an "armed offender" in a preliminary statement about the shooting. Responding to a call about shots fired, officers alleged that they spotted two males near an alley. "One armed offender fled from the officers," officials said in the statement. "A foot pursuit ensued which resulted in a confrontation in the alley of the 2300 block of S. Sawyer. The officer fired his weapon striking the offender in the chest. A weapon was recovered and the offender was pronounced deceased on scene."

Police, who had no problem tweeting a photo of the gun recovered on the scene, didn't inform Adam's mother of his death for two days; and when they did, she was only able to confirm his identity through a picture, Elizabeth Toledo told the nonprofit news organization Block Club Chicago. She had reported her son missing days before his death, so when police contacted her asking for a photo after the shooting she said she thought it was related to her missing person's report. "They told me I had to identify my son's body and I couldn't even see him," the mother told Block Club Chicago. "They showed me a picture of my son Adam for just a couple of seconds." She said her son was only a child. "If they are trained to shoot, why shoot to kill him?" the mother asked.


The mayor provided little explanation for the officer's actions at a news conference on April 5 and instead focused on how the child may have accessed the gun. "Let's be clear," Lightfoot said. "An adult put a gun in a child's hand. A young, impressionable child, and one who should not have been provided with lethal force, a weapon that could, and did, irreparably change the course of his life."


Happening Now www.youtube.com

In another news conference before the release of body-camera footage on April 15, the mayor confirmed the accuracy of allegations Adam was holding a gun and had refused to drop it when he was shot. Prosecutors made the argument five days earlier at a bond hearing on April 10 for Ruben Roman, the other person police said they spotted on the scene before Adam was killed.


"Mayor, to be clear prosecutors said last week, told a judge in court, that Adam Toledo had a gun in his hand. I understand the video will be released in an hour and a half, but can you confirm that? Is that accurate?" a reporter asked the mayor during the news conference. She responded: "You'll be able to see what the video shows. It's not for me to confirm that. I'm very aware of what was said at the bond hearing for Mr. Roman. I believe that, as articulated, the comments of the State's Attorney were correct, but it's not for me to confirm or deny anything about this. There's an ongoing investigation, and I want to honor that."


Happening Now www.youtube.com

Calls for the mayor to resign intensified over the weekend following her release of the body-camera video, a rumored cheating scandal, and a mystifying tweet from former Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan. "Chicago, will see what tomorrow brings..." Duncan tweeted on Saturday.

More than a thousand people protested near the mayor's home Friday night in Logan Square to call for justice in Adam's death, Chicago Sun-Times journalist Ashlee Rezin Garcia tweeted. Ja'Mal Green, a civil rights advocate who ran for mayor of Chicago, said he is "100%" calling for Lightfoot to resign. "I don't think that she's ready to make this bold change, to take down this racist system that she's given," Green said. "She gave over 2 and a half-billion dollars to the police last year. For what? The highest crime rate in 30 years. They ain't solving much crime. They traumatizing and brutalizing people, but they got 2 and a half-billion dollars. Show me an investment of $100 million in a Black or brown community."

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Pro-Trump website 'TheDonald' confirms detailed plans to storm Capitol and kill members of Congress

If there were any lingering doubts as to the violent intentions and motives of those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, those doubts may now be put to rest. From minute details, such as the most effective type of zip ties to restrain elected officials to the most effective methods of killing police officers, the rioters left a chilling and irrefutable electronic trail on a website dedicated to overturning the 2020 election on Donald Trump's behalf. Prior to Jan. 6, that website, "TheDonald.win," had generated over 1 million visits per day.

A research group called Advance Democracy, formed by former FBI analyst and Senate investigator Daniel Jones, collected thousands of messages posted by pseudonymous users of the now-defunct website in the days leading up to the insurrection. The posts were distilled into a report and provided to The Washington Post. Jones' group had previously focused on the online effort to mobilize the riot, and it soon became evident that this particular website served as one of the rioters' primary organizational hubs.

As reported by the Post's Craig Timberg:

"The website, TheDonald, played a far more central role in the January 6th Capitol insurrection than was previously known," he said. "There are thousands of posts — with tens of thousands of comments — detailing plans to travel to Washington and engage in violence against the U.S. Capitol. The ultimate end goal of this violence was, on behalf of Trump, disrupt the Congress and overturn the presidential election."

Because the posters on this site used pseudonyms, Advance Democracy could not identify them; the logical assumption is that the website and its contents are now being analyzed by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to track the former users through more forensic means. As the Post explains, the website itself grew out of a Reddit forum that served for some time as a "safe space" for racists and conspiracy theorists. Eventually, chafing at Reddit's moderation rules, the forum became a standalone site, with its web address owned by an Army Veteran named Jody Williams. Williams disbanded the site after the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.

The Post article cites a treasure trove of intensely violent comments and discussions on the site in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 6 assault. Many of those comments clearly go well beyond the aspirational fever dreams of "keyboard commandos," and involve meticulous and well-coordinated plans, including "shared diagrams of the tunnel systems beneath the Capitol complex," discussion of travel and funding resources, and most notably, proposed methods to inflict violence, some of which were then employed by the rioters.

Users of TheDonald.win also shared advice on bringing firearms into Washington as well as how much ammunition to carry in case the protest turned into a gun battle, and they discussed the legality of carrying other weapons, such as stun guns and small knives, that might not violate the city's strict gun-control laws.
Other subjects of discussion were the proper length and brand of zip ties for detaining members of Congress and how to use a flagpole and other objects to attack police officers.

The question of how to overcome the presence of armed police officers on the Capitol steps dominated several of these online conversations. "Cops don't have 'standing' if they are laying on the ground in a pool of their own blood," wrote one user. Another posited creating a "wall of death" by pushing their fellow Trump supporters from behind. This user theorized—probably correctly—that police would be reluctant to shoot into the crowd if those in the surging mob appeared as if they were physically compelled by others in fomenting the assault.

In addition to detailed preparatory instructions, users of the site—self-described as a "never-ending rally dedicated to the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump,"—routinely encouraged each others' participation in what they unmistakably viewed as a Trump-inspired insurrection. Statements like "If they 'certify' (B)iden, we storm (C)apitol (H)ill. Executions on the steps" and "Arrest the worst traitors … Let them try to hurt us as civilians. Their support will collapse overnight." Other posts directly responded to Trump's encouragement to attend the "wild" event: "I'LL BE THERE, AND I'LL BE WILD, SIR!!!"

Additional posts ruminated as to whether the presence of a gallows or a guillotine outside the Capitol building would be preferable; ultimately, it appears it was decided that the blade of a guillotine would be too large to transport. There were also several posts providing helpful advice on ammunition should the rioters decide to bring arms to the event.

Taken collectively, the posts on this website confirm what the innumerable videos and photographs posted online by the participants themselves make obvious: The riot was carefully planned, it was wholly prompted by the exhortations and incitement of Donald Trump, and its intent was to inflict violence on both elected officials and any law enforcement officers who dared defend them.

In short, it was anything but a spontaneous event. It was a deliberate revolt against this country, planned weeks in advance, for the sole purpose of overthrowing a lawful election and preventing the Joe Biden presidency.

Republicans lock in their losing position against Biden's American Jobs Plan

The more one thinks about the position Republican lawmakers are taking on President Joe Biden's American Jobs Plan, the more preposterous it seems.

In essence, they are eager to kill an infrastructure proposal that will create millions of jobs, in order to preserve the skimpy corporate tax rate they set in a 2017 law that absolutely bombed with the American public.

It's a loser any way you slice it, starting with the proposition that Americans never liked the GOP's tax giveaway to the wealthy to begin with, and still don't. A series of polls taken around tax time in 2019 found the GOP tax law was consistently underwater and peaked at 40% approval.

Yet this unfortunate piece of Trump-era legislation is indeed where Republicans have planted their flag, in service of maintaining an obscenely low corporate tax rate of 21% when most Americans already believe corporations aren't paying their fair share. In fact, multiple polls have now shown that increasing corporate taxes to help fund Biden's infrastructure package actually makes the plan more popular.

Even as Republicans seem keen to pick this fight, corporate America has been a bit more skittish about it. CNBC reports that businesses were "divided" over how aggressively to combat Biden's suggested tax hike to 28%, which is still 7 points lower than the 35% they paid before Republicans slashed it. Biden's 28% proposal is also very competitive with the tax rates of similarly situated countries.

But at the end of the day, corporations both want and need the $2.3 trillion overhaul to the nation's ailing infrastructure and have been mulling "whether to put up much of a fight," according to CNBC. Additionally, taking the position that major businesses shouldn't help foot the bill for investments that will clearly benefit them seems almost preposterous. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for instance, said the country needed "a big and bold program to modernize our nation's crumbling infrastructure." But the Chamber also opposed the tax increase, explaining the plan "should be paid for over time—say 30 years—by the users who benefit from the investment." The suggestion, in case you missed it, is that American corporations somehow won't be benefitting from the investment.

But corporate opposition is already faltering. Outgoing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has thrown his weight behind Biden's plan, specifically saying he was "supportive of a rise in the corporate tax rate" and hailing the administration's "focus on making bold investments in American infrastructure." The benefits of the overhaul, in Bezos' estimation, clearly outweighed the costs of a several-point bump in the tax rate.

This week, a new center-left group associated with Amazon also backed Biden's plan. The Chamber of Progress, a tech industry group funded by behemoths like Amazon, Facebook, and Google, announced its support in a Medium post titled, "A deal the tech industry can embrace: Pay more taxes, get better infrastructure."

Chamber of Progress founder and CEO Adam Kovacevich quoted none other than Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in his post, noting her observation that "by choosing to compete on taxes, we've neglected to compete on the skill of our workers and the strength of our infrastructure. It's a self-defeating competition."

In essence, Republicans' indefensible position against raising taxes is already imploding, and they are barely a few weeks into the fight.

Even centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia—who has promised Republican votes exist on infrastructure—seems unimpressed by the GOP's starting position of a $600 to $800 billion package. "We're going to do whatever it takes. If it takes $4 trillion, I'd do $4 trillion, but we have to pay for it," Manchin said Thursday, noting that lawmakers still needed to identify what type of investments should be included in the bill. "There's no number that should be set on at all," he added.

Wherever Republicans land, it seems safe to say that $4 trillion is a far cry from $600 billion. Manchin has also indicated an openness to raising the corporate tax rate to 25%. In fact, if anything, Manchin already seems a little annoyed by Republicans' unyielding opposition to President Biden's proposals.

"I just hope they help me a little bit in bipartisanship," Manchin said of Republicans. "That's all."

Perhaps the GOP's "red line" on raising corporate taxes is already wearing thin with one of the only Senate Democrats willing to entertain Republican antics.

So just to sum up: Republicans are trying to sell voters on the notion that it's worth killing jobs to protect a corporate tax cut they never liked to begin with, while corporations themselves splinter on the matter and one of the GOP's only Democratic allies feels further alienated.

Please proceed, senators.

Mitch McConnell flat-out tells Republicans to use Manchin and Sinema to obstruct Biden

Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leader Mitch McConnell strategized this week with their conferences on the filibuster, and both had as their focus the two problem children of the Democrats: Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Schumer has a plan for demonstrating to the two that Republicans really don't want to play nice and McConnell has a plan to optimize the two as his tools to trash everything President Joe Biden intends to do.

In this week's Democratic conference luncheon, the first in-person since the pandemic, Schumer asked Democrats to find Republican partners willing to work with them on bipartisan priorities. "Schumer is just now laying out how we want to go forward," one of the Democratic senators told The Hill on background. "Some members of the caucus, a considerable number, they want to understand the extent of Republican obstruction to justify any action taken on the filibuster."

In other words, make the effort to both show the public ahead of the midterms that Democrats are willing to give bipartisanship a go, and to demonstrate to Manchin and Sinema that that's not going to work. "All of this is about bringing the caucus back together so eventually 50 people in the room can reach a decision," the senator said.

While that was happening, McConnell was telling Republicans to make nice to Manchin and Sinema to co-opt them to his agenda by boosting their already healthy egos. In an interview with Politico, McConnell demonstrated the tactic. "What they've been very forthright about is protecting the institution against pressures from their own party. I know what that's like," McConnell said, recalling Trump's constant pressure to make him nuke the filibuster. "Every time I said no. And it's nice that there are Democrats left who respect the institution and don't want to destroy the very essence of the Senate."

Of course, McConnell didn't get rid of the filibuster on legislation because he cared about the Senate, which he had already laid to waste. He kept it because it kept the truly bonkers stuff the Republican House and Trump were coming up with in the first two years of Trump's term from being viable in the Senate. McConnell didn't want to have to preserve the Republican majority on that record. The second reason was that all he really wanted coming out of the Trump years was a stranglehold on the judiciary, which he achieved by—nuking the filibuster on Supreme Court appointees. Oh, and tax cuts. Which he achieved by the same non-filibusterable budget reconciliation he's condemning now. So much for his vaunted love for the institution.

Nonetheless, his team is going forward on his command to co-opt the two tools of the Democrats. "For me right now, they're almost guardians of democracy because they're trying to protect us from the loss of the legislative filibuster and everything that would come with that. They're good people," John Thune, McConnell's number two, told Politico—which is always willing to help spread GOP gospel. "They want to do the right thing." If by "democracy" you mean minority rule, which Thune clearly does. Because that's what Sinema and Manchin are protecting here.

Manchin told Politico "I just hope [Republicans] help me a little bit in bipartisanship. […] That's all." Good luck with that, Joe. "He said he believes Republicans aren't all talk and no give, that 'they really want to work.'" Sure. Because here's what's really happening, and Republicans are happy to admit it: "When they can't drive compromise directly through legislation that's passed through budget reconciliation, GOP senators can influence the process by keeping close ties to Sinema and Manchin."

For example, Manchin's last-minute intervention that nearly blew up the American Rescue Plan—the critical COVID-19 relief bill passed last month—was so much string-pulling by his Republican "friend" Rob Portman of Ohio, to cut back unemployment benefits by $100 a week and to cut the federal boost in payments off in early September, instead of at the end of October.

Politico baldly lays out the machinations here: "No Republicans supported that legislation, but they were able to make their mark through Manchin." In other words, he's being used.

Manchin and Sinema's influence has "been very helpful," said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). "Now, I don't want to overstate that. I don't think either one of them have fundamentally changed the direction of important Democratic legislation just yet. But they've certainly slowed down a lot of the more radical ideas."

Like the radical notion of voting rights. Or the radical idea that $7.25 an hour is not enough to live on in almost every part of the country.

One of the "moderates" in the Democratic conference, the Maine Independent Angus King, basically endorsed Schumer's approach. He said that he wants to see just how many Republicans are willing to cross over to help out before reforming the filibuster, but he is definitely putting the onus on them. "It's up to them," he told The Hill, citing a Washington Post op-ed he wrote last month: "What happens to the filibuster depends on how Republicans play their hand."

Whether Manchin got that message isn't entirely clear. "Chuck Schumer spoke more about bipartisan today than I've ever heard him speak about," Manchin told reporters. "He wants—'Everything we're doing, we'll try to do bipartisan. Let's work on bipartisan, reach out to your friends,'" is how Manchin interpreted it. It was probably more grammatically correct in the original.

Schumer's deploying the only strategy that makes sense at this point, with Manchin and Sinema digging in their heels—put the onus on them to find Republicans to help. It would be satisfying if he took that a bit further and made Manchin, in particular, prove his assertion that there are 10 Republicans willing to work with him by getting public statements from them. But this will do for now.

Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar launch 'America First Caucus' -- and it's pretty bad

Do not—Do. Not.—dismiss this as just a handful of Republicans: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar are starting an "America First Caucus" in the House of Representatives, and they might as well go ahead and call it the You Will Not Replace Us Caucus or get real honest and call it the White Supremacist Caucus, because the introductory description of the group's purpose, as reported by Punchbowl News, is breathtaking.

The group is forming around a "common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions." That string of words comes from the discussion of immigration, and apparently that common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions strengthens the border somehow. Maybe because the Anglo-Saxon political traditions they have in mind are guns and racism? (They may be overselling the uniqueness here.)

While immigration may increase the nation's "aggregate output," they acknowledge, it's still unacceptable because of "the long-term existential future of America as a unique country with a unique culture and a unique identity being put at unnecessary risk."

IT'S UNIQUE, PEOPLE. UNIQUE.

Oh, and they have ideas about infrastructure. Yes, white supremacist ideas about infrastructure. "The America First Caucus will work towards an infrastructure that reflects the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom." (Do they know that stunningly beautiful infrastructure costs money?)

The progeny of European architecture pretty much puts it right out there, just in case you'd missed the Anglo-Saxon bit: We're talking about white people, and nobody but. The United States of America is unique … but in a very European way.

So. Why should you not dismiss this as just a handful of Republicans? Punchbowl reports that Greene and Gosar are being joined by Reps. Louie Gohmert and Barry Moore, but that's still just four. Yeah. Four people elected to the United States Congress creating or signing on to a group intended to bring stunningly, classically white supremacist ideas to Congress. Four is not a lot of people to embrace white supremacy if the four people are random schmoes in a population of millions. Four is a lot of people when you're talking about a pool composed of those elected to the national government in one of two major parties. There are 212 Republicans in the House and it's not hard to think of a few more of them who are probably thinking seriously about joining this caucus.

This is also significant because it's not coming out of nowhere. A "certain intellectual boldness is needed amongst members of the AFC to follow in President Trump's footsteps, and potentially step on some toes and sacrifice cows for the good of the American nation." There are footsteps for them to follow in when they sketch out this white supremacist vision of the U.S.—footsteps that went into the White House.

For years the Republican Party as a whole has gotten the benefit of the doubt about its far-right members. It's just a few, people said. It's the fringe. But the party as a whole keeps moving toward that fringe, making the fringe of a decade ago the center of the party now. It is never safe to assume that Republicans will cleanse themselves of the racists or the conspiracy theorists or the sex pests in their party. We've watched them refuse to do so again and again, and if we don't learn from that, it's a guarantee of disaster.

A 'lifetime member' of the Oath Keepers just sealed a cooperation deal in Capitol insurrection case

A self-described "lifetime member" of the Oath Keepers has become the first defendant in the Jan. 6 insurrection cases to enter a guilty plea as part of a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, following a hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., Friday morning.

The plea bargain for Jon Schaffer, 53, a heavy-metal guitarist from Indiana who was photographed assaulting officers with bear spray and entering the U.S. Capitol, was approved by Judge Ahmit Mehta. Schaffer engaged in a long conversation with Mehta acknowledging that the deal requires him to "cooperate fully with the United States," which included providing evidence of known crimes and sitting for interviews with investigators.

Schaffer's guilty plea to two charges—obstructing an official proceeding and illegally entering the Capitol grounds—makes him the first participant in the insurrection to agree to provide evidence against his fellow rioters. Schaffer, who originally faced six felony charges, will enter the government's witness protection program as part of the deal.

According to an earlier filing, which was mistakenly made public, Schaffer in March began engaging in "debrief interviews." As The Washington Post notes, the plea bargain marks a critical step forward in the prosecution of the cases, as other defendants face similar choices in terms of providing evidence for prosecutors, particularly when it comes to the activities of the two key paramilitary organizations involved in the insurrection, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.

"Whenever you have a large group of people arrested," criminal defense attorney Martin Tankleff told CNN, it's common for prosecutors to pressure defendants to flip on each other. "They're going to start talking. They're going to start sharing information."

Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, who was present in Washington on Jan. 6 but did not enter the Capitol, is one of the key figures being drawn into the net prosecutors are creating with conspiracy charges involving other members of his group. Though federal indictments handed down against his Oath Keepers and Proud Boys cohorts have not named him personally, he is referenced in several of them as "Person 1," a central player in what prosecutors are describing as a conspiracy to "stop, delay, or hinder Congress's certification of the Electoral College vote."

"I may go to jail soon," Rhodes recently told a right-wing rally in Texas. "Not for anything I actually did, but for made-up crimes. There are some Oath Keepers right now along with Proud Boys and other patriots who are in D.C. who are sitting in jail denied bail despite the supposed right to a jury trial before you're found guilty and presumption of innocence, were denied bail because the powers that be don't like their political views."

Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola's attorney wrote in court filings that he believed a so-called "cooperating witness" was sharing information about the Proud Boys. An earlier filing by prosecutors had revealed that this witness heard Proud Boys members claim that "anyone they got their hands on they would have killed," including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and that they would have also killed then-Vice President Mike Pence "if given the chance." The men—who all had firearms or access to them—also talked about returning to Washington for Inauguration Day, and that "they plan to kill every single 'm-fer' they can." That witness, prosecutors noted, has not been charged with a crime.

Most of the defendants, as a New York Times piece recently explored, are facing substantial evidence of their crimes culled from videos and photos both in mainstream media and on social media. Indeed, a large portion of that evidence was provided by the insurrectionists themselves.

Chicago officials release horrifying video of police officer killing 13-year-old Adam Toledo

On Thursday, after weeks of protests and calls for answers and action, the Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) released footage of the shooting death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. Toledo was shot and killed by a Chicago Police officer on March 29, 2021, in the predominantly Latino community of Little Village. The video is graphic, and disturbing, and Adam Toledo is clearly a child. He runs from the police officer, who chases him down an alley with a chain-linked fence along the right side. Toledo stops at the fence, slightly turned away from the officer. The officer screams at him to turn around and Toledo turns around, his hands bare and both up in the air at his shoulders—and he is shot. Once in the chest.

Before releasing the video, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a public plea for calm, saying: "We must proceed with deep empathy and calm and importantly, peace," and "No family should ever have a video broadcast widely of their child's last moments, much less be placed in the terrible situation of losing their child in the first place." The video was released with the consent of the Toledo family.

Chicago is going to see unrest tonight. They are going to see unrest because the video is devastating. They are going to see a very small 13-year-old shot and killed, seemingly murdered, by a law enforcement officer. They are going to see an unarmed 13-year-old boy slump down and die in front of their eyes. And besides being fed up with it all, and besides being gaslit over and over again, they are going to remember one thing: Every goddamn thing that law enforcement and city officials said about this shooting was a lie. Every. Goddamn. Detail.

At the time of the shooting, the 13-year-old was called an "offender." For two days, they didn't inform his mother that her son had been killed by police. Police say they were responding to a "shot spotter" alert, a technology that triangulates the sound of gun shots. The Chicago Police even tweeted out an image of a gun against the fence where Toledo was killed, implying he was armed when the officer shot him. The unnamed police officer is reportedly on a month's paid administrative leave.

As WGN 9 reported on Thursday before the release of the footage, "During a bond hearing for 21-year-old Ruben Roman, who was with Adam the night of the shooting, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney James Murphy described the altercation in a proffer: 'The officer tells [Toledo] to drop it as [Toledo] turns towards the officer. [Toledo] has a gun in his right hand.'" The WGN report came with the new information that the state's attorney's office said that the statement was made in error. This is what they actually said:

"An attorney who works in this office failed to fully inform himself before speaking in court."

Then he should be fired or seriously censured I'm guessing, right? That's a super big legal mistake. Prosecutors have also told the judge in that case that Toledo had gun residue on his right hand. Maybe that's true? Maybe he was the one that set off the shot spotter? Maybe the fact that the Chicago police department and the state's attorney's office haven't been honest at any step of this process means that I don't believe them. The burden of proof is on them, not on Adam Toledo. Not on his mother, his grandfather, or the two siblings he leaves behind.

Adam Toledo was 13 years old. He was a seventh-grader at Gary Elementary School.

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