Friday, June 21, 2024

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

| June 8, 2021 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

Fifteen unions representing law enforcement officers are endorsing policing changes that include backing off from protections of “bad” police officers, CNN reported.

British cyber security firm Comparitech discovered a massive bot farm that produced 50,000 posts a week used for political manipulation of the 2020 election and COVID-19. Researchers said they did not know origins of the bot farm, but it might have been Russia, given the “.ru” domain.

President Joe Biden has proposed a $1.7 trillion job-creating infrastructure initiative for roads, bridges and other public works, much of it to be paid for with large tax increases on corporations and wealthy taxpayers. Republicans refuse to consider that payment plan, The New York Times reported. The Senate Republican proposal is one-seventh the cost of Biden’s proposal and has no mention of fixing veterans’ hospitals, repairing transit systems, removing lead pipes and laying the foundation for a clean energy economy. The President noted that “corporate profits are the highest they’ve been in decades. And workers’ pay is the lowest level it’s been in 70 years.”

Senate Republicans have said they support an infrastructure bill, but proposed paying for it with user fees (toll booths) and increased gas taxes, Americans for Tax Fairness stated.

If Congress is looking for a few extra billion dollars, Elliot Nelgin, senior writer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, suggests looking at the military budget. He wrote in Scientific American that early this century the Pentagon canceled a dozen “ill-conceived, ineffective weapons programs that cost taxpayers $46 billion.” There have been other comparable money drains, such as the $1.5 trillion spent on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the $67 billion ground-based Midcourse Defense system and the $43 billion KC aerial refueling tanker.

The U.S. military in 2019 exceeded that of the next 10 countries’ defense budgets combined, accounting for 38 percent of worldwide military spending. In contrast, the EPA gets a bit more than 1 percent of what the military gets, despite the military acknowledging that climate change threatens U.S. security.

President Biden’s $6 trillion budget proposal is said to be a response to not only COVID-19 economic shocks but also decades of “disinvestment,” USA Today reported.

The U.S. Senate vote was 54 to 35, but the majority still lost. The 35 Republicans won using the filibuster to stop an independent investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection. Politico sketched out a Plan B: Democrats can eschew a bipartisan investigation. Attempts to establish one with Republican help already have been rebuffed. Instead, they may initiate a Democrat-led commission.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) characterized the dissent by colleagues as a “short-term political gain,” since Republicans have said they’re worried commission findings will hurt them in the 2022 midterm elections. Republican Thomas Kean, head of the 9/11 commission, told The Guardian there was “no reason for turning it down,” but “I guess some people were scared of what they’d find out.”

Other House-passed bills speculated to be stopped by the Republican filibuster include: the For the People Act (ends voter suppression and gets big money out of politics); the Equality Act; The Dream Act; the Paycheck Fairness Act; D.C. statehood; and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

At the Q-Anon conference in Texas late last month, a former attorney for Donald Trump told attendees Trump “can simply be reinstated,” Business Insider reported. As well, Trump crony and event speaker Michael Flynn was asked if what happened in Myanmar, where a democratically elected government was overthrown by the military, could happen here. Flynn, on camera, said it should happen here. The video clip went viral.

Flynn said any accusation of him calling for a coup based on the recording was “a boldface fabrication based on twisted reporting.” (Flynn was previously found guilty of lying to the FBI, but was pardoned by Trump.)

Attempting to stop new Republican-backed voter restriction laws, Democrats in the Texas statehouse walked out, forcing adjournment. The upended bill made unsolicited mail-in ballots illegal, banned voter drop boxes and drive-through voting, stopped early Sunday morning voting (despite the House meeting on a Sunday) and had measures to cripple get-out-the-vote programs “aimed at Black churchgoers.”

Last minute insertions to the bill included streamlined methods for overturning election results, including “no longer requiring evidence that fraud actually altered an outcome.”

The recent mass shooting in San Jose, Calif., was the 232nd mass shooting in the U.S. this year. That is 100 more mass shootings than occurred by this time in 2020, according to Democracy Now.

Blast from the past: “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage; half shut afterwards,” said Benjamin Franklin, American statesman and scientist, 1706-1790.