Confident Assertions

At this point, I feel confident to assert the results of the Michigan election are accurately represented by the certified and audited results. While the Committee was unable to exhaust every possibility, we were able to delve thoroughly into enough to reasonably reach this conclusion.

– Michigan Republican State Senator Ed McBroom
Report on the November 2020 Election in Michigan

There is no featured post this week. Just a collection of too-long short notes.

This week everybody was talking about the infrastructure deal

So is there a bipartisan deal on an infrastructure bill or not? At the moment, where is Lucy’s football exactly?

Thursday, President Biden and a group of ten senators — five Republicans and five Democrats — announced they had reached in infrastructure compromise. Reportedly, it included $579 billion in new spending over five years and $973 billion in total.

Immediately, there was skepticism: Five Republicans is not the ten needed to beat a filibuster, so where will the other five votes come from, even if Biden and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer corral all 50 Democratic votes? (Apparently 11 Republicans have endorsed the “framework” of the agreement.) And an agreement is not a bill; will even the five Republicans who worked out the compromise proposal — Rob Portman of Ohio, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah — stay on board as the details get filled in? Do they even really intend to vote for a bill, or is this yet another Republican ploy to run out the clock on the slim Democratic majorities in Congress?

All along, Democrats have said they were following a two-bill strategy:

Everyone in that group [of ten senators] — Republicans and Democrats alike — understood the dual tracks forward.

The bipartisan package was to be on one track. The agreement included money for traditional infrastructure — roads, bridges, rail, transit — plus some spending for clean energy. To get it to Biden’s desk, supporters would need 60 votes in the Senate, meaning at least 10 Republicans if all 50 Democrats were on board.

The rest of Biden’s proposals, which amount to trillions of dollars in spending on what he has called human infrastructure, on more programs to address climate issues and on money for social programs, would be on the other track, included in a budgetary package that would come to the Senate floor under terms of reconciliation, meaning it would need just 50 votes to pass.

The other track would also include a funding mechanism that is very popular among everyone but congressional Republicans: tax the rich and roll back some of the Trump tax cuts for big corporations.

Many Democratic pundits don’t understand why Republicans would be part of this plan. Chris Hayes, for example, asked Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut):

But like, why are the Republicans going to go for this? Like, if this is the plan — if the plan is to have your cake and eat it too and like, pass this one thing, but then all the other things they don’t like get past a reconciliation, like, what am I missing about why they’re going to vote for it?

Murphy didn’t respond crisply, but eventually got around to the right answer:

for many Republicans, this is an ability to, you know, put their name on a package and then be able to disavow parts — other parts that they may not be as comfortable with. So, there is an ability for Republicans to have their cake and eat it too as well here.

In other words, the bill I voted for is the “good” infrastructure that is creating jobs and fixing the broken parts of the country, while the bill I voted against is “wasteful spending” and “socialism”.

But within hours of Thursday’s announcement, discovery of the Democrats’ two-bill strategy was producing outrage among Republicans, causing them to reconsider their support. What had changed? Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would not pass the bipartisan package unless the reconciliation bill had also made it through the Senate, and Biden referred to the two bills as a “tandem”:

“I’m going to work closely with [House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and [Senate Majority] Leader [Charles E.] Schumer to make sure that both move through the legislative process promptly and in tandem. Let me emphasize that: and in tandem.” Asked to clarify, he said: “If this [bipartisan agreement] is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it.

Saturday, Biden was walking that statement back, saying that it was not a “veto threat”. Whether that statement will be enough to save the deal is not clear, though several Republicans seemed to be back on board.

What is clear is that this is a dance. Participants simultaneously know things and don’t know them. They are by turns optimistic or outraged, without anything really having changed. The five Republicans are dancing, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are dancing, and Biden is dancing.

But we still don’t know who the dance is for. Is it for the Republican populist base, which generally likes the idea of creating jobs by rebuilding America (and many even like the idea of taxing the rich), but has been trained to respond angrily to “socialism”, and to oppose whatever Democrats support? Is it for moderate voters in West Virginia and Arizona, who want something to pass, but also want to see Manchin and Sinema standing strong for “bipartisanship” and against “the radical left”? Is it to convince 2022 swing voters that Republicans are trying to be reasonable, and aren’t intentionally sabotaging the economy under Biden the same way they did under Obama? Or is it to convince progressives that Democrats tried really, really hard for their priorities, even if they failed to pass any?

More concisely: Is the point to do something for the country, or to stake out talking points for 2022?

I don’t think we’ll know the answer until the music stops , one or two bills have been written in detail, and they have either passed or failed with some number of Democratic and Republican votes. Current predictions say that won’t happen until the fall.

and the Florida building collapse

Thursday, half of a 13-story condominium building near Miami Beach collapsed for no obvious reason.

While a number of bridges, overpasses and buildings under construction fail each year, the catastrophic collapse of an occupied building — absent a bomb or an earthquake — is rare, and investigators are struggling to understand how it could have come with so little urgent warning. … Structural engineers were shocked that a building that had stood for decades would abruptly crumble on an otherwise unremarkable summer night.

So far the death toll stands at nine, but more than 150 people are still missing.

Collapsed portion of building outlined in red. Annotation is at

The search for an explanation comes with a sense of urgency not only for sister buildings near the complex but also for a broad part of South Florida, where a necklace of high-rise condos, many of them decades old, sits on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, enduring an ever-worsening barrage of hurricane winds, storm surge and sea salt.

Video from a distant security camera shows the center portion of building falling first, quickly followed by an eastern section.

A 2018 report indicated that a concrete structural slab was cracking near the parking deck, near where the collapse appears to have started, and that failed waterproofing needed to be repaired to prevent expansion of the damaged area. However, the condo owners association was told that the building was “in very good shape” heading into the 40-year recertification due this year.

and Biden and the bishops

Like the story of the infrastructure bill, this week’s drama concerning President Biden and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is tricky to interpret.

President Biden is America’s second Catholic president, following John F. Kennedy more than half a century ago. Biden clearly thinks of his faith as more than just a label. He occasionally refers to his Catholicism in speeches, and made headlines by unexpectedly attending mass at a local church during his recent trip to England for the G-7 meetings.

Attending mass — a ritual consumption of bread and wine based on the last supper of Jesus before his crucifixion, also called “communion” or “the Eucharist” — is central to the Catholic faith. When someone claims to be a “practicing” Catholic, they usually mean that they regularly go to confession and attend mass. Someone who doesn’t participate in those rituals is a “lapsed” Catholic. So while cutting someone off from the mass is not excommunication, it is a major obstacle to practicing the Catholic faith and maintaining a Catholic identity.

Some number of US bishops want to cut President Biden off from the mass because he supports abortion rights, which conflicts with the position of the Church. At a recent meeting, the USCCB started a process that could end in denying communion to Biden, and possibly other pro-choice Catholic politicians. According to NPR’s report, Biden was mentioned by name during the debate.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, who leads the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, has been among the most vocal critics of Biden’s support abortion rights. He said he’s disturbed by Catholic officials who “flaunt their Catholicity” while publicly taking positions on abortion that conflict with those of the church.

“This is a Catholic president that’s doing the most aggressive thing we’ve ever seen in terms of this attack on life when it’s most innocent,” Naumann said. 

This is not a new issue for Naumann. Back in 2008, he denied communion to then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius after she vetoed an anti-abortion law.

The USCCB’s moves got a great deal of publicity, much of it negative. California Rep. Ted Lieu, also a pro-choice Catholic, pointed out the bishops’ partisan hypocrisy.

Dear @USCCB: You did not deny Communion to the following Catholic Republicans: Newt Gingrich, who believed in open marriage & had multiple divorces, Bill Barr, who expanded death penalty executions, Chris Collins, who stole by insider trading.

Countless people on social media went someplace Lieu avoided: Where was this judgmental spirit when Catholic priests were raping children entrusted to their care? How many of the bishops voting to exclude Biden actively participated in covering up that scandal, or moved known pedophile priests to positions where they could attack more Catholic children?

More in the spirit of Ted Lieu, I’ll add a few other hypocrisies: The bishops haven’t threatened Catholic Republicans who voted to kick tens of millions of Americans off of health insurance, or to deny food stamps to needy families. This is in spite of Pope Francis, who has denounced single-issue Catholicism:

Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection.

But there’s more going on here than just whataboutism. It’s worth taking a step back to examine exactly what President Biden’s “sin” is supposed to be. Let’s allow for the moment the dogma that aborting a fetus at any stage for any reason is murder. (However, it’s worth noting that this issue has a history, and is not nearly so clear-cut as the Church currently pretends. “Early Church leaders began the debate about when a fetus acquired a rational soul, and St. Augustine declared that abortion is not homicide but was a sin if it was intended to conceal fornication or adultery.” However the current hierarchy may assert its authority, this is a position about which reasonable people may disagree, even if they are Catholic in every other way.)

Even granting the current dogma, though, Biden stands at a considerable distance from this sin. He (obviously) has never had an abortion himself. Nor has he ever performed an abortion. As far as we know, he has never encouraged a woman to have an abortion. So he is not “pro-abortion” in any visible sense.

What has he done, exactly, that puts him in conservative bishops’ crosshairs? He has taken a position on the role of government in the abortion decision, specifically, that government should not be the one deciding. That’s what “pro-choice” means.

The bishops, on the other hand, believe that their theological opinion about the moral value of a fertilized ovum should be written into law, and that the government should enforce it — not just on Catholic women who don’t find the bishops’ views persuasive, but on American women of all faiths. In short, they want precisely the “establishment of religion” that the First Amendment forbids.

It soon became apparent that, in E. J. Dionne’s words “The Catholic bishops’ anti-Biden campaign is backfiring.” Four days later, the USCCB issued a statement that essentially claimed it was all a misunderstanding: “There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians.”

So did we all just go off about nothing? Or did the Catholic bishops back down in the face of a public furor?

and the New York mayoral primary

New York City is having its first mayoral elections under its ranked-choice voting system. The results of the Democratic primary show both the strength and weakness of the system: Nobody was the first choice of a majority of voters, which would have led to a run-off election under previous rules. That won’t be necessary now, but the re-allocation of losing-candidates’ votes to the voters’ second or third choices is going to take some time.

In the highly anticipated Democratic primary race for mayor, as of today, Eric Adams leads the first-round count in the Democratic primary for mayor with 31.7 percent, followed by Maya Wiley in second with 22.3 percent, Kathryn Garcia in third with 19.5 percent and Andrew Yang in fourth with 11.7 percent. All other candidates are in the single digits.

The reallocation can’t even start, though, until the exact order of the finishers is established, and that can’t happen until all the absentee ballots are counted. RCV is definitely less trouble than a run-off, but it may not be much faster.

and trouble in TrumpWorld

Trump loyalists got a lot of discouraging news this week, assuming ONN covered any of it. Multiple news sites are reporting this:

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has informed lawyers for the Trump Organization that it could face criminal charges in connection with benefits it has provided to company employees, a Trump attorney confirmed Friday. The charges, which could come as soon as next week, would likely involve allegations of a company effort to avoid paying payroll taxes on compensation it provided to employees, including rent-free apartments, cars and other benefits, a person familiar with the matter said. … Prosecutors are also likely to announce charges against Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization chief financial officer, as soon as next week, people familiar with the matter said.

Weisselberg has so far been unwilling to cooperate with prosecutors on more serious charges of tax evasion and/or bank/insurance fraud concerning members of the Trump family. Presumably, these charges (if they happen) would put pressure on him.

The attempt to start an election audit circus in Georgia similar to the one going on in Arizona suffered a major blow Thursday when a judge dismissed 7 of 9 counts in a suit demanding access to the 147,000 absentee ballots cast in Fulton County. The two surviving parts of the suit seek only digital images of ballots under Georgia’s open-records law.

Rudy Giuliani’s law license has been suspended.

The New York State appellate court temporarily suspended Mr. Giuliani’s law license on the recommendation of a disciplinary committee after finding he had sought to mislead judges, lawmakers and the public as he helped shepherd Mr. Trump’s legal challenge to the election results. For months, Mr. Giuliani, who served as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, had argued without merit that the vote had been rife with fraud and that voting machines had been rigged. … Mr. Giuliani now faces disciplinary proceedings and can fight the suspension. But the court said in its decision that he would be likely to face “permanent sanctions” after the proceedings conclude. A final outcome could be months away but could include disbarment.

The 33-page report goes through Giuliani’s lies in detail: falsely claiming that Pennsylvania counted more absentee ballots than it sent out, that his lawsuit made a fraud claim when it didn’t, that many thousands of ineligible voters — dead people, underage voters, convicted felons, illegal aliens — had voted in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and/or Arizona (the numbers he claimed were “wildly divergent” from one statement to the next, and sometimes “in the very same sentence”), and that video from security cameras showed Georgia election officials counting fraudulent mail-in ballots.

Suspending a lawyer’s license temporarily before disciplinary hearings is unusual, but the report justified the move:

We find that there is evidence of continuing misconduct, the underlying offense is incredibly serious, and the uncontroverted misconduct in itself will likely result in substantial permanent sanctions at the conclusion of these disciplinary proceedings.

It also emphasized that if Guiliani fights the sanctions, he’ll have to offer real evidence that his statements — if not true — were at least based on some information a reasonable attorney might have believed.

[O]nce the [Attorney Grievance Committee] has established its prima facie case, respondent’s references to affidavits he has not provided, or sources of information he has not disclosed or other nebulous unspecified information, will not prevent the Court from concluding that misconduct has occurred. … Nor will offers to provide information at a later time, or only if the Court requests it, suffice.

The suspension is the first shoe to drop on Giuliani; there may be several others. Dominion Voting Systems is suing him for $1.3 billion over his false statements about their voting machines, and he is under federal investigation for illegal lobbying in Ukraine.

Michigan Republicans are not going along with Trump’s Big Lie. The Michigan Senate Oversight Committee, with three Republicans and one Democrat, issued their report on the 2020 election, which “found no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud in Michigan’s prosecution of the 2020 election.”

Committee Chair Ed McBroom writes in the introduction:

At this point, I feel confident to assert the results of the Michigan election are accurately represented by the certified and audited results. While the Committee was unable to exhaust every possibility, we were able to delve thoroughly into enough to reasonably reach this conclusion. The strongest conclusion comes in regard to Antrim County. All compelling theories that sprang forth from the rumors surrounding Antrim County are diminished so significantly as for it to be a complete waste of time to consider them further.

The report examines in detail each of the Trumpist fraud claims (which duplicate a lot of Giuliani’s false claims listed above). For example, here is the section on dead people voting:

The Committee was also provided a list of over 200 individuals in Wayne County who were believed to be deceased yet had cast a ballot. A thorough review of individuals on that list showed only two instances where an individual appeared to have voted but was deceased. The first individual was a 118-year-old man whose son has the same name and lives at the same residence. The Committee found there was no fraud in this instance but was instead a clerical error made due to the identical name. The second individual was a 92-year-old woman who died four days before the November 2020 election. Research showed she had submitted her completed absentee ballot prior to the November 2020 election and prior to her death. Notably, research showed the secretary of state and clerks were able to discover and remove approximately 3,500 absentee ballots submitted by voters while they were alive but died before Election Day, which is a commendable accomplishment.

And about “illegal” absentee votes:

Many court filings and individuals highlighted a data spreadsheet by an individual who claimed to have worked with “experts” to determine whether individuals had received an unsolicited absentee ballot. The spreadsheet indicated that “289,866 illegal votes” had been cast. This figure came from the Voter Integrity Project. To arrive at this number, the group used a methodology where they called 1,500 voters and asked if they had received a ballot without requesting it, something that would be illegal although not specifically indicative of fraudulent voting. The number of affirmative answers were then extrapolated out to 289,866 voters statewide receiving these ballots which are defined as “illegal ballots.” The repeated use of the terminology “illegal ballots” is misleading and causes significant confusion as it implies fraudulent votes or votes received that do not come from legitimate sources or should not be counted. However, while it may not be lawful to send ballots without first receiving an application, voting this ballot is not an illegal action by a lawful voter and it is not indicative of fraudulent or illicit behavior of the voter nor of an illegitimate vote.

The Committee called forty individuals from this list at random. Only two individuals reported having received an absentee ballot without making a proper request. One of the two individuals is labeled as a permanent, absentee voter within the state’s QVF file, indicating that they had, at some point, requested to be placed on that list. The other individual voted via an absentee ballot in the August primary election, and it is possible they checked the box to vote absentee in the subsequent election and simply forgot they had chosen this option.

In general, this report is a good reference to use if you find yourself dealing with bizarre claims by Trumpists.

Meanwhile, Trump had a rally in Wellington, Ohio Saturday night, where he repeated many of his debunked claims. The rally was to support a challenger to Republican Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, who voted to impeach Trump in January. During his speech, Trump twice referred to mythical election-fraud problems in “Montana”, which apparently looks like “Michigan” when you see it on a teleprompter. (But tell me again about Biden’s cognitive decline.)

Warm-up speaker Marjorie Taylor Greene got cheers by calling AOC a “little communist” who “is not an American”, and agreeing with a call to “lock her up”.

Atlantic’s Jonathan Karl offers some details about Bill Barr’s final days in office — in particular, why he announced publicly that he had seen no evidence of election fraud, a statement that enraged Trump and ultimately led to Barr resigning a few weeks early. It would be nice to see that statement as a final attack of conscience, a line he ultimately could not cross, and an unwillingness to prostitute the Justice Department to politics any further.

But come on, this is Bill Barr we’re talking about. His statement was a shift in his politicization, not a renunciation of it.

To McConnell, the road to maintaining control of the Senate was simple: Republicans needed to make the argument that with Biden soon to be in the White House, it was crucial that they have a majority in the Senate to check his power. But McConnell also believed that if he openly declared Biden the winner, Trump would be enraged and likely act to sabotage the Republican Senate campaigns in Georgia. Barr related his conversations with McConnell to me. McConnell confirms the account.

“Look, we need the president in Georgia,” McConnell told Barr, “and so we cannot be frontally attacking him right now. But you’re in a better position to inject some reality into this situation. You are really the only one who can do it.”

“I understand that,” Barr said. “And I’m going to do it at the appropriate time.”

On another call, McConnell again pleaded with Barr to come out and shoot down the talk of widespread fraud. “Bill, I look around, and you are the only person who can do it,” McConnell told him.

So the no-evidence-of-fraud announcement arose from conversations between the US attorney general and the Senate majority leader about what the AG could do to help preserve the Republican majority. Barr was corrupt, from the beginning of his term right up to the end. It never stopped.

you also might be interested in …

Friday, Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for killing George Floyd, and he could be eligible for supervised release in 15 years. His sentence was longer than the 10-15 years recommended by sentencing guidelines because of “aggravating factors” in the crime. But it was still less than the 30 years prosecutors requested.

To me, the exact number of years means less than the fact that the sentence is substantial. Assuming it stands up to appeal, 22.5 years puts an end to the idea that cops can do anything and get away with it.

The Washington Post, publishing material from the new book Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic that Changed History, revealed just how scary Trump’s bout with Covid really was, and how extraordinary his experimental treatment was. And in the end, it changed nothing in his handling of the pandemic.

X-Files creator Chris Carter comes to no conclusions in his op-ed on “unidentified aerial phenomena” (a.k.a. UFOs). But he still wants to believe that alien civilizations are out there.

Protesters are disrupting school board meetings with complaints about “critical race theory”, which literally no one is teaching to K-12 students. No one would have even heard the phrase “critical race theory” if it weren’t being made into a boogeyman by conservative media. What perhaps is being taught in some (but not many) public schools is the existence of unconscious or systemic racism, or the longstanding influence of white supremacy on American history.

It’s striking how these fanned-by-national-media “grass roots” protests parallel the Tea Party disruptions of congressional town-hall meetings in the summer of 2009, when we heard so much about the mythical “death panels” ObamaCare was supposedly going to set up, and how the US was about to go bankrupt like Greece. The same playbook gets dusted off whenever Democrats have power.

and let’s close with something made up

From the Bored Panda:

Luca Luce is a professional makeup artist from Milan, Italy, who uses his own face as his canvas to create mind-boggling 3D makeup art. The Italian artist shows the power of makeup – he more than highlights and accentuates facial features; he distorts, confuses and redefines them – creating looks that are creepy yet captivating at the same time.

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  • charlesroth2016  On June 28, 2021 at 11:09 am

    The delays we’re seeing in the NYC mayoral race are not inherent in RCV. A well-designed RCV system could give you current results in minutes, and update on the fly as absentee ballots come in. This is most likely the result of attempting to adapt existing systems to RCV: changing a legacy system rarely goes easily.

  • Ed  On June 28, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    Re Catholicism’s stance on Biden and abortion, it would logical for them to refuse Ma’s and communion to all who use or encourage or refuse to ban birth control – except that would empty the pews even more. The attack on Biden is political, not religious.

  • James C  On June 28, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    AOC’s reply to MTG was “I’m taller than her.”

  • Abby  On June 28, 2021 at 6:33 pm

    “How many of the bishops voting to exclude Biden actively participated in covering up that scandal, or moved known pedophile priests to positions where they could attack more Catholic children?”

    Answer: All of them. Studies have shown that the sex abuse scandal is so widespread that basically all Catholic clergy either committed abuse, or knew of abuse and didn’t do anything about it.

    • charlesroth2016  On June 28, 2021 at 6:37 pm

      As an engineer, I’m always skeptical of “studies have shown”. While I would not be shocked (to learn that the answer was “all of them”), I’d prefer to see references.

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