Elizabeth Preza

'Mind-numbingly reckless and irresponsible': Maricopa County sheriff blasts Arizona Senate's audit demand

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone on Friday slammed the "Senate Republican Caucus' audit of the Maricopa County votes" for "[jeopardizing] the entire mission of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office," the Arizona Republic reports.

"The Senate Republican Caucus' audit of the Maricopa County votes from last November's election has no stopping point," Penzone said in a statement. "Now, its most recent demands jeopardize the entire mission of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."

Penzone's criticism comes after Maricopa County failed to provide "certain routers that the state Senate sought in its original subpoenas" of 2020 election material. According to the Arizona Republic, "the county has provided all 2.1 million voter general election ballots, voter information and election equipment in response to state Senate subpoenas," but is warning of a "significant security risk to Sheriff's Office law enforcement data" if the routers are released.

Ken Bennett, who is serving "as a liaison between the Senate and the private contractors overseeing the audit," said auditors wants access to the routers because "people that have always suspected something nefarious about elections being connected to the internet."

The Senate is also demanding "passwords to the county's ballot tabulators used on Election Day at voting centers." Bennett said auditors need the passwords so they have have "administrative access to voting machines," according to the Arizona Republic.

But County Attorney Allister Adel, in a letter to Bennett, said no such passwords exist. "The county has provided every password, user name and security key in its custody or control, as commanded by the Senate's subpoenas, and does not have any others," Adel told Bennett.

As for the routers, Sheriff Penzone in his statement said "access to this information would adversely affect the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office ability to protect critical evidence, data shared between law enforcement agencies, protected private information and individual passwords, all of which could be used to the detriment of citizens and law enforcement infrastructure."

Such a move "puts sensitive, confidential data belonging to Maricopa County's citizens — including social security numbers and protected health information — at risk as well," Adel wrote in that letter to Bennett.

Republican Supervisors Chairman Jack Sellers likewise said releasing the routers would "cripple County operations and cost as much as $6 million."

Penzone also suggested the Senate is misrepresenting tropes of "transparency and accountability" in an effort to secure the routers.

Per the Arizona Republic:

The sheriff said transparency and accountability are democracy's foundation. "But when these words are misrepresented, it defies the fragile balance that exists between freedom and order and all that we believe in."

'Terrible economics': These states are declining federal unemployment funds. Experts say that's 'a huge mistake'

Residents in South Carolina and Montana next month will lose access to federal unemployment benefits over what those states' Republican governors call a "severe workforce shortage." Experts say the move by Montana's Gov. Greg Gianforte and South Carolina's Gov. Henry McMaster is a "huge mistake."

As ABC News reports, South Carolina and Montana are the first states "to end participation in the unemployment enhancement programs." That program offered U.S. workers access to extra unemployment funds as part of the American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden in March.

In a statement announcing South Carolina's "return to pre-pandemic unemployment program," McMaster complained: "In many instances, these payments are greater than the worker's previous paychecks."

"What was intended to be a short-term financial assistance for the vulnerable and displaced during the height of the pandemic has turned into a dangerous federal entitlement," he said.

In an effort to incentivize Montanans, Gianforte is offering a one-time "'return-to-work bonus' of $1,200 will be paid to people who rejoin the labor force and maintain employment for at least one month," according to ABC News. That money will also come from the federally-funded American Rescue Plan.

But Economy Policy Institute senior economist Heidi Shierholz says McMaster and Gianforte are making "a huge mistake."

"The idea that states are just going to forego that and allow all that money to be sucked out of their economy is just terrible economics," Shierholz told ABC News. "I just deeply hope that you don't see more states following this path because it's a huge mistake."

Shierholz said the narrative of a "severe workforce shortage" driven by increased unemployment benefits is based on a false premise. Currently, federal unemployment benefits offer laid-off workers an additional $300 per week, down from $600 at the end of last of July. According to Shierholz, if money was the motivator, that decrease from $600 to $300 would have made a marked difference in the unemployment rate last year.

"You should have seen a bump up in employment, and you can't see that in the data so it just points to that it wasn't really causing the labor supply effect," Shierholz said. "It's just difficult to imagine that something half that big is having any effect now."

And Shierholz is far from the only expert who warns that hiring issues in South Carolina and Montana won't be solved by depriving residents of enhanced unemployment benefits.

ABC News reports:

William E. Spriggs, an economist and professor at Howard University, said in an interview with ABC News that there is no data to prove that unemployment checks are preventing Americans from returning to work.

"There's no job shortage, in terms of workers. There's a wage shortage," said Spriggs, adding that research shows many employers "want to pay rotten wages and have rotten hours."

Last week, the Washington Post published an analysis that likewise dispelled the framing of a "worker shortage" based on enhanced unemployment. "At the most basic level, people are still hesitant to return to work until they are fully vaccinated and their children are back in school and daycare full-time," the Post analysis declares.

Many Americans, the Post reports, are "re-assessing what they want to do and how they want to work, whether in an office, at home or some hybrid combination."

Still, McMaster and Gianforte are blazing ahead with plans to reopen their respective economies by depriving citizens (and their states) of extra funding during the worst public health crisis in a century. As ABC News reports, experts say "declining to take federal money is going to have a deep effect on the living standards of residents and their families, and likely will worsen those states' overall economies."

But for all the hand wringing about disincentivized workers by those states' Republican governors, Shierholz said the bottom line is "employers are just angry that they are unable to find workers at relatively low wages."

"The jobs being posted are more stressful, more risky, harder jobs than they were pre-COVID," she added. " ... When the job is more stressful, then it should command a higher wage."

Update Sun. May 9 | 9:25 AM EST —

WMC Action News reports that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday also "ordered the state's Division of Workforce Services to end Arkansas' participation in federal pandemic unemployment programs." That order goes into effect on June 26; the federal unemployment benefit program will run until September.

Joe Manchin says his 'better judgment' was a 'bipartisan' COVID bill — but Biden 'wants to show strength'

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, says he knows President Joe Biden is "trying to bring everybody together" but he disagreed with the new leader of the free world who worked hard and acted fast to get relief to Americans struggling after a year in a pandemic that had already stolen 400,000 lives the day he was sworn into the Oval Office.

Manchin, ranked by GovTrack as number 54 on a list of Senators where 100 is the most liberal (Lisa Murkowski is ranked more liberal, at number 55,) had a lot to say about former President Donald Trump as well.

"I didn't know there was that type of fever and pent-up hatred in people he allowed them to unleash."

Manchin is outright blocking President Biden's agenda in the name of "bipartisanship" by refusing to support its critical elements, including HR1 , the voting rights protection bill, along with Biden's ambitious infrastructure bill, the LGBTQ Equality Act, D.C. statehood, killing or at least weakening the filibuster – and using the budget reconciliation process to move bills forward.

There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster," Manchin wrote one month ago. "The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation."

Instead, Manchin wants to be known as the bipartisan guy, regardless of whether or not Biden's agenda is accomplished.

"I talk to everybody. I have dinner with everybody. If I can find a pathway forward, we're going to find it. You can't find it unless you know people and unless you truly want to be a friend and want to work in an honest way, not a gotcha moment."

Manchin, for example, admits infrastructure is important and decades overdue. To his thinking that just means there's no need to rush.

"Now we're in a situation we don't have that urgency (unlike COVID-19 relief), that time sensitivity, that 'We gotta do this. We gotta do infrastructure.' Infrastructure should have been done 10, 20 years ago. It's not like a do-or-die right now. We can fix it, we should fix it, but it should be based on infrastructure," he told USA Today.

Experts say that every day that goes by makes the actual price tag higher, with even more damage done to critical infrastructure like roads and bridges, and the increased costs due to inflation. There's also "soft" infrastructure, like broadband, which is critical to learning and communications.

Meanwhile, with Manchin being the last Democratic holdout on much of the Biden agenda, blocking both key aspects – the legislation – and the road to pass those bills – killing the filibuster – he's getting a lot of attention on social media.











Suez Canal blockage: Here's what it takes to unwedge a megaship

Stephen Turnock, University of Southampton

One of the world's largest container ships, named Ever Given, has been wedged across the Suez Canal since it was blown off course by high winds in the early hours of March 23, blocking one of the busiest maritime trade corridors in the world.

The incident has created a logjam of hundreds of tankers, the operators of which are now weighing up whether to wait for the stranded container ship to be cleared, or whether rerouting around the Cape of Good Hope, at the southernmost point of Africa, will hasten their arrival at port.

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Colorado massacre intensifies demands for action: 'End the filibuster and pass gun safety laws. Now'

After a gunman armed with an AR-15-style rifle killed 10 people in a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado on Monday, the second mass shooting in the United States in less than a week, calls rang out for Democrats to use their slim majority in Congress to finally eliminate the legislative filibuster and pass substantial gun safety laws over foreseeable GOP obstruction.

"We're absolutely heartbroken for everyone who has been impacted," progressive advocacy group Indivisible said in the wake of the massacre. "You're going to see another round of 'we can't do anything yet, there was a tragedy' hand-wringing, but we must end gun violence now. Let's eliminate the filibuster and pass real gun violence prevention legislation."

In the middle of Monday afternoon, a gunman entered a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder and opened fire as horrified employees and customers attempted to hide and flee. The building was soon surrounded by law enforcement, and about an hour later—after 10 people were killed, including a city police officer who responded to the scene—a shirtless man with blood running down his right leg was escorted from the building in handcuffs. Authorities did not confirm that the man was the shooter but said the suspect has been taken into custody.

As the Washington Post noted, "There have been as many as nine school shootings in the area since the Columbine massacre in 1999, which left 12 students and a teacher dead. Four other major shootings have occurred within 20 miles of the suburban Columbine High School, including a 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora that left 12 dead."

"Enough is enough," Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) said in a statement late Monday. "Americans should feel safe in their grocery stores. They should feel safe in their schools, their movie theaters, and in their communities. While Congress dithers on enacting meaningful gun violence prevention measures, Americans—and Coloradans—are being murdered before our very eyes—day after day, year after year."


Ten killed in mass shooting at Colorado grocery store www.youtube.com

The Boulder massacre came just days after a gunman killed eight people—most of them women of Asian descent—in a shooting spree at three separate spas in metro Atlanta.

"I said Atlanta was predictable and inevitable. So was this. I discussed this scenario with Republicans who bullshitted me about why they needed to vote no on H.R. 8," Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, said of the Boulder shooting late Monday, referring to background check legislation that the House passed over nearly unanimous Republican opposition earlier this month.

"End the filibuster," Guttenberg added. "Gun safety needs to move forward without them."

Others echoed that message, arguing that the Democratic Party—which controls Congress and the presidency—cannot allow an archaic Senate rule to stand in the way of potentially lifesaving gun measures.

"End the fucking filibuster and pass some gun reform because my hands are shaking with rage typing this and checking on friends and family," wrote Jessica Mason Pieklo, executive editor of the Rewire News Group and a Boulder resident. "I still don't know if we know any of the dead."



In recent days, as Common Dreams has reported, several prominent Senate Democrats as well as President Joe Biden have voiced support for substantial changes to the filibuster, which in its current form requires 60 votes for most legislation to pass the upper chamber. It is highly unlikely that Senate Democrats would be able to get 10 Republicans on board for gun control legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared Monday night that "this Senate must and will move forward on legislation to help stop the epidemic of gun violence," but he did not mention the filibuster issue.

"Democrats should put common sense gun control on the floor of the Senate tomorrow and force a talking filibuster," said activist Ady Barkan, referring to a potential rule change that would require senators who wish to obstruct to speak continuously on the floor. "[West Virginia Sen. Joe] Manchin and Biden already said they support that rule change. So do it now."

"This is the moment," added Barkan, "and this is the issue."

'You voted against it' trends as GOP tries to take credit for 'bipartisan relief bill' passed by Dems only

Some Republican members of the House and Senate are trying to take credit for elements of the American Rescue Act after refusing to support the bill, prompting social media users to remind them: "YOU VOTED AGAINST IT!"

That phrase trended on Twitter Sunday after at least four Republican congresspeople tried to convince their constituents they played a role in the broadly-backed $1.9 trillion stimulus package. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law on Thursday. No Republican in either the House or Senate supported the bill.

On Friday, Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL) took to Twitter to "announce that the Biden Administration has just implemented my bipartisan COVID relief bill." Despite insisting she was "proud" that her "bipartisan legislation has officially become SBA policy," Salazar failed to mention that she, herself, voted against the bill.

Here are some reactions to Salazar's post:





Salazar isn't alone. As previously reported by AlterNet, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) on Wednesday

tweeted his approval for a provision in the bill that grants $28.6 billion to independent restaurant operators — despite voting against the legislation. That tweet immediately garnered criticism from social media users:







Another Republican catching flak for her comments on the popular legislation is Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who called the stimulus checks "money that you and your fellow countrymen already paid into the system" (duh).


We honestly aren't going to waste time talking about Boebert, save a series of reactions that really hone in on how disingenuous her tweet was:





And finally, we have Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who released a statement accompanying his "no" vote that can only be described as walking a tightrope:

"Today, I'm glad to know my constituents will be receiving an additional relief payment and funding to help improve their access to vaccines, PPE, and unemployment insurance.



I fully support getting assistance to Americans to help keep food on their tables and to help those who are struggling. I fully support continued funding for emergency essentials like vaccines, COVID testing, PPE, school reopening resources, unemployment insurance, and research. And I'll continue to work with my colleagues in the House to ensure the American people have what they need to fight through this pandemic."

Unsurprisingly, Kinzinger's statement didn't go over well:







So there you have it, folks. Republicans are trying to take credit for a bill not a single one of them voted for, while simultaneous railing against provisions that were also included in former President Donald Trump's bills, which they did vote for. It's almost like these people don't actually care about helping us!

GOP in disarray after historic defeat: ‘Political disaster doesn’t begin to describe how bad this is for Republicans’

A new report from Roll Call details some of the many challenges facing the Republican Party as it looks to an uncertain future following former President Donald Trump's electoral defeat.

As the party turns its focus to the 2022 midterms, it remains "divided over Trump, their midterm prospects and the state of the GOP itself," Roll Call's Bridget Bowman, Kate Ackley, and Stephanie Akin report.

While some, like Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), insist the Republican Party is "very unified" when compared with their Democratic counterparts, the reality is that many in the GOP, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), are bracing for primary challenges. Some McConnell allies told Roll Call they're anticipating "'a large-scale campaign' to block far-right candidates in primaries."

Trump has already made it clear that he intends to "primary the hell" out of any Republicans who didn't back the president's effort to overturn the election.

"Political disaster doesn't begin to describe how bad this is for Republicans," GOP consultant Alex Conant said.

"The 2022 primaries are going to be where those tensions get tested," former Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Ryan A. Costello told Roll Call.

And former National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) head Rep. Thomas M. Davis III likewise cautioned the party against allowing Trump to maintain control even after it suffered crippling defeat in under his leadership.

"The more Trump hangs around, the intensity, as we saw in Georgia, stays with Democrats," Davis said.

While some new Republican House members have made their allegiance to Trump known, others are taking a different approach to attract voters in the party. One such congresswoman is Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who told "Meet the Press" on Sunday that she wants "to be a new voice for the Republican Party."

"That's one of the reasons I've spoken out so strongly against the president, against these QAnon conspiracy theorists that led us in a constitutional crisis," Mace said.

But Mace's goal of uniting a party that rejects the very same conspiracy and cynicism Trump embraced (loudly) over the past 5 years may be far-fetched, at best. As GOP consultant Mike DuHaime told Roll Call, "if the party behaves like it has in the last two months, we shouldn't count on any success."

PA officials demand Rep. Scott Perry resign over report he played role in Trump scheme to replace AG

The New York Times on Saturday singled out Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) as a member of Congress who "played a significant role" in former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election — and now, lawmakers in Perry's state are calling for the congressman's resignation.

According to the Times, while Perry was hardly a main character in the president's unsuccessful attempt to usurp President Joe Biden's electoral victory, he played an integral role in Trump's plan to fire acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Trump was hoping to replace Rosen, "who stood by the results of the election and had repeatedly resisted the president's efforts to undo them."

Perry introduced Trump to Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official who "was sympathetic to Mr. Trump's view that the election had been stolen," the Times reports.

Per the Times:

"As the date for Congress to affirm Mr. Biden's victory neared, Mr. Perry and Mr. Clark discussed a plan to have the Justice Department send a letter to Georgia state lawmakers informing them of an investigation into voter fraud that could invalidate the state's Electoral College results."

According to the Times, the former president "backed down" on his plan to fire Rosen and install Clark "only after top department officials threatened to resign en masse."

As the York Daily Record reports, Perry also "led a House floor objection to Pennsylvania's election results" when Congress met to certify the Electoral College votes. That meeting was interrupted by a mob of angry Trump supporters after the president held a rally and promised to "fight like hell" for the presidency.

Following the publication of the report, officials in Pennsylvania on Saturday called for Perry's resignation. One such official was Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-PA), who offered this succinct message for his Republican colleague.




And Josh Shapiro, the Pennsylvania attorney general, insisted there "must be consequences" for Perry's actions.




Eugenio DePasquale, who lost out to Perry in 2020's 10th Congressional District election, likewise demanded the representative's resignation, tweeting "Perry must go!"




Perry has not commented on the New York Times report.

'Couldn’t have done it without you': Missouri paper lays the blame for Capitol mob squarely on its own senator's shoulder

Leading Missouri newspaper The Kansas City Star on Wednesday published an editorial excoriating Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) over the Republican leader's effort to block certification of President-elect Joe Biden's electoral college victory.

Wednesday afternoon, supporters of the president stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. as Congress moved to certify the electoral college vote. The mob forced representatives, senators, congressional reporters and staffers to don gas masks and evacuate the building. One woman on the Capitol grounds was shot in the chest and later died, the Metropolitan Police Department confirmed.

According to The Kansas City Star, Hawley — who was the first senator to join President Donald Trump's last-ditch attempt to reverse the vote — "deserves an impressive share of the blame for the blood that's been shed" at the nation's Capitol today.

Per the Star:

"No one other than President Donald Trump himself is more responsible for Wednesday's coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol than one Joshua David Hawley, the 41-year-old junior senator from Missouri, who put out a fundraising appeal while the siege was underway."

Acknowledging the "tragic, outrageous and devastating" events that transpired Wednesday at the Capitol Building, the editorial board described the attack as "wholly consistent with Trump's call to overturn the election to address nonexistent fraud."

"Those of you who have excused all of the brazen lawlessness of this administration can take a little bit of credit for these events, too," the paper wrote. "They couldn't have done it without you."

The Kansas City Star further accused Hawley "and other Republicans who upheld Trump's con about widespread fraud" of "[knowing] all along that his claims were bogus."

The paper then implored Hawley and other Republicans to "surprise us":

"Now that they've seen exactly where those lies have landed us, decency demands that they try to prevent further violence by making clear that Joe Biden did not win by cheating."

Read the full editorial at The Kansas City Star.

'Like being a hostage negotiator': How Trump’s handlers finally got him to sign the COVID relief bill

A new report from Axios describes the negotiations between President Donald Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, as Mnuchin and McCarthy tried to get Trump to sign the COVID relief and government spending bill that had stalled at the president's desk for days.

Axios' Mike Allen writes that negotiating with "a cranky, stubborn President Trump" was "like being a hostage negotiator, or defusing a bomb."

In a video posted to Twitter last Tuesday, the president put the fate of the stimulus and government spending bill at risk when he called on Congress to raise the $600 checks to $2,000. In that video, the president described the proposed payments as "ridiculously low."

Shortly after posting the video, Trump flew to his private Florida club, Mar-a-Lago. The bill, passed by the House and Senate and awaiting the president's signature, followed suit:


Sunday, hours before Trump changed his mind and signed the bill, unemployment benefits for millions of Americans ran out.

According to Axios, in the intervening days between Trump's Twitter video and his ultimate decision to sign the package, Trump insiders — including Mnuchin, McCarthy and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — "indulged the president's rants, told him there was great stuff in the bill, and gave him 'wins' he could announce, even though they didn't change the bill."

Appealing to his "vanity," Allen reports that the president's confidantes finally convinced him "that he had gotten all there was to get" from the bill negotiations.

As Allen reports, the about-face comes too little too late for millions of Americans. And it may have ultimately cost the Republican Party two wins in the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff election.

"It may be too late," Republican pollster Frank Luntz told Axios, "Too late for him, too late for the economy, too late for Covid, and too late for the Georgia senators."

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