Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
A common feature of the pervasive corruption of capitalist politics and politicians in America is the practice of using privileged information to make stock trades, particularly in the midst of the recurring crises that beset Wall Street. In such matters, as in passing laws to ban strikes by rail workers and impose contracts rejected by the workers, bipartisanship prevails.
Last month’s government bailout of rich depositors at Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, the second and third biggest bank failures in US history, is no exception.
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal, citing recent legally required disclosures, reported that three House members, two Republicans and one Democrat, two of whom were directly involved in secret bailout talks, made substantial trades in bank stocks in the initial days of the crisis. According to the Journal’s own investigation, New York Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer made trades that marked “the latest instance of congressional stock trading intersecting with official business.”
Malliotakis bought stock in New York Community Bankcorp (NYCB) on March 17, two days before the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. announced that Flagstar Bank, a subsidiary of NYCB, would take on Signature’s deposits. Signature, headquartered in New York City, had been placed in receivership by New York regulators on March 12.
Just days before she bought the stock, Malliotakis issued a statement (March 13) on her Twitter account in which she boasted of working closely with federal and state officials to address the failure of Signature.
“Both last night and this morning I have been meeting with the Federal Reserve, U.S. Department of Treasury, Governor [Kathy] Hochul and New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Adrienne Harris to discuss the closure of Signature Bank,” she wrote, adding, “I have been assured all depositors will be made whole through the Deposit Insurance Fund which is made up of contributions from all member banks, not taxpayer funds.”
Malliotakis bought $1,001 to $15,000 in NYBC stock on March 17. The day after the March 19 announcement that NYBC’s Flagstar subsidiary would acquire Signature’s deposits, NYBC stock rose 32 percent, landing the congresswoman a tidy profit.
Rep. Malliotakis’s disclosure said the stock purchase was made by her spouse, a common excuse given by politicians who are involved in insider trading. Unfortunately for the congresswoman, she is unmarried.
Democratic senators are calling for the Supreme Court to investigate Justice Clarence Thomas for failing to disclose reported luxury trips funded by a billionaire Republican donor.
The Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats have announced they will hold a hearing on Supreme Court ethics.
The panel also warned of legislation, if the court does not resolve this issue on its own.
Clarence Thomas is the dumbest U.S. Supreme Court Justice as well as the longest serving and the most sexually creepy, I always thought, although the limber Brett Kavanaugh bounced far ahead of him in the last category.
In 2016, Thomas asked a question in court, breaking a 10-year silence. For a decade, the man had nothing to say. Was he shy? He’s no longer shy, his confidence built up from hanging with billionaire Harlan Crow.
“What first attracted you to the billionaire Harlan Crow?” I’d ask Thomas. “What first attracted you to the non-bright and biddable Justice Thomas?” I’d ask Crow.
They’re a pairing made in American hell, a bad influence on each other and a terror to fellow citizens, particularly women. For 20 years, Crow has treated Thomas and his family to luxury cruises on his yacht, flights on his private jet, and stays at his East Texas ranch and his private Adirondacks resort, ProPublica reveals. His gifts, including portraits, have been lavish. Thomas keeps them secret.
We will doubtless spend a few news cycles expressing outrage that Harlan Crow has spent millions of dollars lavishing the Thomases with lux vacations and high-end travel and barely pretended to separate business and pleasure, giving half a million dollars to a Tea Party group founded by Ginni Thomas in 2011 (which funded her own $120,000 salary). But because the justices are left to police themselves and opt not to do so, we will turn to other matters in due time. Before the outrage dries up, however, it is worth zeroing in on two aspects of the ProPublica report that do have lasting legal implications. First, the same people who benefited from the lax status quo continue to fight against any meaningful reforms that might curb the justices’ gravy train. Second, the rules governing Thomas’ conduct over these years, while terribly insufficient, actually did require him to disclose at least some of these extravagant gifts. The fact that he ignored the rules anyway illustrates just how difficult it will be to force the justices to obey the law: Without the strong threat of enforcement, a putative public servant like Thomas will thumb his nose at the law.
If there is a single image that captures this seedy state of affairs, it is a painting of Thomas hanging out with Leonard Leo (Federalist Society co-chair and judicial power broker) and Mark Paoletta (who has served as chief counsel to former Vice President Mike Pence and general counsel of Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget). Both are political operatives, though Crow assures us that they would never dare talk about Thomas’ work. This image should be enough to shock anyone into taking action against the spigot of dark money that flows directly from billionaire donors into the court, its justices, and their spouses’ pockets. Continuing to live as though there is nothing to be done about any of this is a choice. We make it every day.
The incident reflects the broader lack of accountability at the high court regarding off-bench behavior. Justices regularly brush aside reporters’ queries for specifics on travel and gifts, book advances and other extracurricular activities.
They have repeatedly spurned calls by members of Congress that they adopt a formal ethics code. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin made another such plea to Roberts this week as he also urged the chief justice to open an investigation into Thomas’ conduct.
At the same time, the high court has long benefited from a certain degree of good will, free of the scrutiny watchdog groups and news media have given the legislative and executive branches of government.
They may have squandered that good will.
Polls show the public approval of the court – now controlled by a conservative supermajority – plunging. The pattern was accelerated after last summer’s reversal of longstanding precedent in multiple cases, most notably the decision dissolving nearly a half century of abortion rights precedent.
There’s no need to demonize and dehumanize any group of people in a legislative process stacked in Republicans state lawmakers’ favor from the get-go. Those are the spoils of 20 years of gerrymandering, packing courts with partisans and voter suppression.
Florida Republicans hold a super-majority and have all the votes in the Legislature necessary to pass whatever bill they and their autocratic agenda-setting leader, Gov. DeSantis, could possibly desire.
But they carry the bully gene in their souls.
They’ve now advanced to quash the most vulnerable among us with evil verbal attacks that have no place in society, much less the Florida House.
At a committee hearing Monday, Rep. Webster Barnaby, a Deltona Republican, railed against transgender people, calling them “demons and imps” and “mutants from another planet.”
Disgusting behavior on many levels, but the lack of decorum and civility is especially galling because he’s targeting vulnerable people — misunderstood transgender people, who have the highest suicide rates in the country.
How did drag queens get dragged into politics? For that, we turn to the city of Jackson, Tennessee.
In March, Tennessee state Rep. Chris Todd, a Republican, indicated to the state Senate that it was his constituents who requested he take up the bill: "This past year in my community, we had a local group decide to do a, quote, family-friendly drag show. When they listed this as family-friendly, my community rose up."
The community of Jackson never even saw the scheduled Pride performance before opponents raised thousands of dollars in donations and filed an injunction to prevent it from taking place. Todd then introduced the new bill as an obscenity statute to prevent "adult cabaret performers like drag queens from performing in public spaces where children could be present."
Critics of the bill say an obscenity law is already on the books, and that this is specifically targeting the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Iraqi government has called on Turkiye to apologise for an attack on an airport in the country's northern Kurdish region, Reuters news agency reports.
According to the report, the Iraqi demand on Saturday came as a Turkish Defence Ministry official told the Reuters news agency that no Turkish Armed Forces operation had taken place in that region in recent days.
Iraq's presidency said the attack on Friday took place in the vicinity of the Sulaimaniyah Airport in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, denouncing it as a "flagrant aggression" against its sovereignty.