Letter From An American by Heather Cox Richardson



  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
    October 8, 2023 (Sunday)  I took today off entirely to celebrate my sixty-first trip around the sun. Spent it with family and dear friends, and even snuck in some time on the water.  A really nice day.   Will be back at it tomorrow (although if the news would slow down just a tad, I wouldn't be unhappy)....


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 9, 2023 (Monday)

    The crisis in the Middle East has continued to escalate. Since I last wrote on Saturday, October 7, the contours of the attack on Israel by Hamas have become clearer. More than 900 Israelis have been killed in the fighting, and dozens more have been taken hostage and are now being held in Gaza, with Hamas threatening to execute them if Israelis target civilians without warning. At least 11 U.S. citizens were killed in the attack.

    In retaliation, Israel has struck the Gaza Strip from the air and restricted food, electricity, and fuel. Around 680 people have been killed in Gaza, and more than 187,500 have been displaced. Thousands more have been wounded on both sides.

    Rumors are flying about how deeply Iran backed the attack by Hamas, and whether Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew ahead of time about the attack, but there is little analysis yet that is verified. At the same time, the volume of disinformation spreading suggests that the crisis is being used to destabilize the U.S. by increasing the already strong feelings about the conflicts between Israelis and Arabs in the Middle East.

    And, over all, the conflict is deeply steeped in centuries of history both in the region and elsewhere as well as in longstanding cultural antisemitism, which had been on the rise and which is now, in some countries, at fever pitch.

    For my part, while I am willing to try to keep people abreast of key players and events in the present crisis, I am trying to be cautious and not speculate in areas about which, as a scholar of the United States, I am not versed. The volume of hate mail about last Saturday’s letter, pretty evenly divided between those accusing me of backing one side and those accusing me of backing the other, is about the highest I’ve ever received, but I was trying simply to present the verified events of Saturday alone, with a focus on how they affected the United States.

    While I can’t say much about the internal meaning of events in the Middle East, I can reflect on what is happening, on a day-to-day basis, in the U.S. in response to the crisis.

    President Joe Biden has been in touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu throughout the last few days, and this morning met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall, and White House chief of staff Jeff Zientz about the situation, directing them to act with their Israeli counterparts on all parts of the crisis but focusing primarily on the missing hostages.

    This afternoon, Biden called the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom to coordinate support for Israel. After the call, the leaders issued a rare joint statement, expressing “our steadfast and united support to the State of Israel, and our unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and its appalling acts of terrorism.” They reiterated that “the terrorist actions of Hamas have no justification, no legitimacy, and must be universally condemned. There is never any justification for terrorism.  In recent days, the world has watched in horror as Hamas terrorists massacred families in their homes, slaughtered over 200 young people enjoying a music festival, and kidnapped elderly women, children, and entire families, who are now being held as hostages.”

    They emphasized that their countries would support Israel against such atrocities, and again warned other countries against trying to exploit the chaos after the attack to gain an advantage.  

    At the same time, the statement continued, “All of us recognize the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, and support equal measures of justice and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike. But make no mistake: Hamas does not represent those aspirations, and it offers nothing for the Palestinian people other than more terror and bloodshed.”

    The U.S. is facing this crisis with a weakened diplomatic corps, a weakened military, and a weakened government.

    Because of holds Republican senators have put on the nomination process, the U.S. does not have a Senate-confirmed ambassador to Israel or Egypt, the two countries that border the Gaza Strip. The nominees for U.S. ambassador to Oman and Kuwait are similarly waiting for confirmation, as is the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has held up several of the Middle East nominations, claiming that the “nominees keep lying to Congress and the American people, testifying publicly that they are committed to countering Iran and deepening the U.S.-Israel relationship then implementing the opposite policies in secret once confirmed.”

    The military is also down critical leaders, as Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is refusing to lift his hold on more than 300 uncontroversial military promotions, a hold he says is to protest Pentagon policy of permitting military personnel time off to obtain abortion care.

    And the House of Representatives is without a speaker, making it unclear what, if any, business other than electing a new speaker it can conduct. The two candidates in the race for speaker—Representatives Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH)—apparently hope to be elected from within the Republican conference, but neither has shown any sign of being able to find the necessary votes.

    Scalise is saddled with his own declaration years ago that he was like Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke “without the baggage,” and—in addition to old accusations of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse of the Ohio State University wrestlers on the team of which he was the assistant coach between 1987 and 1995—Jordan is closely associated with the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Republicans from more moderate districts are likely to be reluctant to back either of them.

    Today, former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested he would be willing to return to the speaker’s chair and noted that he had more votes than any other current Republican candidate when the extremists ousted him last week.

    This evening, House Republicans met in private to discuss the speakership. They are expected to hold a candidate forum tomorrow and a private vote on a nominee Wednesday. They then hope to have a candidate to take forward for a floor vote.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 10, 2023 (Tuesday)

    “[T]here are moments in this life…when the pure, unadulterated evil is unleashed on this world. The people of Israel lived through one such moment this weekend.”

    So began President Joe Biden’s speech today about the attacks in Israel at “[t]he bloody hands of the terrorist organization Hamas—a group whose stated purpose for being is to kill Jews.”
    “This was an act of sheer evil,” Biden said.

    He described the slaughter in Israel in detail, noting that it looked much like “the worst rampages of ISIS,” as its fighters ravaged Iraq and Syria.

    “But sadly, for the Jewish people, it’s not new,” he said. “This attack has brought to the surface painful memories and the scars left by…millennia of antisemitism and genocide of the Jewish people.”

    “So, in this moment, we must be crystal clear,” he said. “We stand with Israel….  And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack.”
    Biden was careful to distinguish between Hamas and the Palestinians. “Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination,” Biden said. “Its stated purpose is the annihilation of the State of Israel and the murder of Jewish people…. Hamas offers nothing but terror and bloodshed with no regard to who pays the price.”
    Former ambassador of Israel to the United States Michael Oren wrote on social media: “President Biden’s speech was the most passionately pro-Israel in history. The president stood four square behind the Jewish state and the Jewish people and unequivocally against terror and anti-Semitism, and pledged the power of the US to our defense. Our people will always remember and cherish this speech and the man who delivered it.” Israeli president Isaac Herzog agreed: “On behalf of the entire people of Israel, thank you [President] Joe Biden.”

    President of the Arab American Institute James Zogby told Barak Ravid of Axios that the speech "was expected, but it was disappointing…. What I would have hoped for today is a call for restraint and for ceasefire...and a U.S. effort to play a leadership role in bringing about an end to the violence and offering some hope—both to Palestinians and to Israelis—that their security mattered, that their futures mattered," he said.

    But Biden’s speech did more than simply express moral support for Israel. It outlined increased U.S. military assistance to Israel, more U.S. intelligence, and more U.S. military force in the region “to strengthen our deterrence.”

    That deterrence is undoubtedly a key part of the reason for this strong statement about the U.S. stance in the region, as leaders are eager to stop the crisis from expanding. “Let me say again—to any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation, I have one word: Don’t,” Biden said. “Don’t. Our hearts may be broken, but our resolve is clear.”

    That determination to limit the spread of the fighting by shoring up alliances and partnerships was behind the president’s working of the phones all weekend and was likely part of the more than three dozen meetings he and Vice President Kamala Harris have held with the national security team since the crisis began.

    The effort to keep the violence from spreading will be at least part of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s role when he travels tomorrow to Israel and Jordan. The U.S. is talking to Israel and Egypt about establishing a humanitarian corridor between the Gaza Strip and Egypt that will enable Palestinians to evacuate.

    The president’s speech was not without notice to Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed fierce retribution against all the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for the actions of Hamas. Biden said that in a recent phone call the two had discussed “how democracies like Israel and the United States are stronger and more secure when we act according to the rule of law. Terrorists…purposefully target civilians, kill them. We uphold the laws of war,” Biden said, laws that prohibit deliberate targeting of civilians and require proportionate responses. “It matters. There’s a difference.”

    Monica Alba, Carol E. Lee, and Peter Nicholas of NBC News reported the conversation was stronger than Biden’s speech indicated, with Biden warning Netanyahu that the U.S. will be watching closely for blowback to excessive force, especially if such force kills civilians.

    Biden also suggested that the forces at work in Israel today could threaten us here in the U.S. He noted that the police departments, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are taking steps to increase security around centers of Jewish life. “Let’s be real clear,” Biden said. “There is no place for hate in America—not against Jews, not against Muslims, not against anybody….  [What] we reject is terrorism. We condemn the indiscriminate evil, just as we’ve always done.”

    The speech undercut those Republicans who are threatening to withhold funds from Ukraine. The White House is also trying to get the Senate to confirm Jack Lew, Biden’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel. This is a crucially important position in ordinary times, but even more so in such a crisis. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been holding up his nomination.
    Meanwhile, Congress as a whole is in limbo as House Republicans appear to be no closer to uniting behind a speaker. Today, four of the former Ohio State University wrestlers who claim Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) covered for a sexual predator when he was an assistant coach there spoke up against his election as speaker. “Do you really want a guy in that job who chose not to stand up for his guys?” one said. “Is that the kind of character trait you want for a House speaker?”

    Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC) entered the Republican candidate forum today wearing a white T-shirt with a red letter “A” on it, saying she was doing so because of the backlash she faced as “a woman up here, and being demonized for my vote and for my voice.” Mace, one of the eight House Republicans who voted to get rid of former speaker Kevin McCarthy, said the A was her “scarlet letter,” an apparent reference to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel involving a woman forced to wear a scarlet A after giving birth to a child without identifying the father. MSNBC host Katie Phang called the stunt “performative nonsense,” and it does seem to indicate a preoccupation with media hits that appears to have taken over the party.  

    The Republicans had another setback today when a new indictment against New York Representative George Santos added 10 more charges against him, including lying about donations to jump-start his political career and then stealing money from donors to buy designer goods and pay his own debts.

    The Democrats are united behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 11, 2023 (Wednesday)

    Tonight, a limited letter tied tightly to today’s news because I am wiped out from the hours I’ve been keeping. Hoping to have my batteries back into the green by the weekend.

    In a secret vote by the House Republican Conference today, Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) won the race to become the Republican candidate for speaker of the House of Representatives, beating out Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) by 113 to 99.

    In the past, the conference as a whole would have stood behind the majority’s choice, but traditional rules no longer apply to today’s Republican Party. Three of Jordan’s supporters have already said they will not support Scalise, and Representative George Santos (R-NY) is complaining that Scalise hasn’t called him, convincing him to throw his vote to “ANYONE but Scalise and come hell or high water I won’t change my mind.”

    To become speaker, Scalise needs 217 votes. Unless he can attract Democratic votes, he cannot lose more than 4 Republican votes. All 212 House Democrats remain united behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), meaning that he is closer to a majority than any of the Republican candidates.

    Rather than hold a floor vote to elect a speaker today, the House recessed in order to let Scalise try to get his ducks in a row.

    Both Scalise and Jordan are Trump supporters; both went along with the lie that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. Early in his career, Scalise compared himself to Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke “without the baggage,” while Jordan is accused of overlooking sexual assault when he was an assistant wrestling coach and was a key player in the January 6, 2021, attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. It is astonishing that a major U.S. political party is considering either man to become the second in line for the presidency.

    As the Republicans try to line up behind one of the two candidates—so far—the chaos is hobbling the government. Until the House is organized again under a new speaker, it cannot provide aid to Ukraine or Israel, or work toward reaching an agreement on next year’s budget before the continuing resolution funding the government at 2023 levels runs out in mid-November. Or do pretty much anything other than try to elect a speaker.

    Senate Republicans are creating their own chaos. Joe Gould and Connor O’Brien of Politico reported today that in the Senate, Democrats are trying to push through the hold Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has placed on more than 300 military promotions as well as other senators’ holds on a number of diplomatic officers. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has called for a reform of the current nominations process, which permits a single senator to stop confirmations.

    In light of the crisis in the Middle East, the holds reveal how easy it is for a senator or two to weaken the United States. Gould and O’Brien point out that Tuberville’s hold means that two of the senior military positions in the region are unconfirmed, as are State Department appointments including ambassadorships to Middle Eastern countries—among them both Egypt and Israel—and the department’s top counterterrorism position.

    These are not controversial appointments in their own right. Republicans are using them as leverage for their own policy goals. Pentagon officials have warned senators that the holds are disrupting our national security and that of our allies and partners.

    Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today heard arguments in Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, a gerrymandering case notable in part because the attorneys and justices all agree that the Republican-dominated South Carolina legislature constructed a district map rigged in favor of Republicans so dramatically that it is virtually impossible for Republicans to lose.

    In the 2019 Rucho v. Common Cause decision, the Supreme Court ruled that partisan gerrymandering was a state question rather than a federal one, making it impossible to challenge partisan gerrymanders in federal courts. But partisan gerrymanders quite often overlap with racial gerrymanders, and the question before the court in Alexander is whether the South Carolina map violated the law by being racially discriminatory. A federal three-judge panel agreed that it did, but if the Supreme Court disagrees, the process of carving up districts so politicians can pick their own voters will have gotten even easier.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 12, 2023 (Thursday)

    We are in a bizarre moment.

    If the U.S. government were operating within its normal parameters, my first story tonight would be about new federal charges that Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was acting as an agent of Egypt while chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Democratic rules in the Senate required Menendez to step down from that chair when he was charged with bribery in late September.

    The new charges are serious indeed. As Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) said today, calling for Menendez to be expelled from the Senate: “We cannot have an alleged foreign agent in the United States Senate. This is not a close call.”

    If the government were working as usual, I would also be writing about Congress’s response to the crisis in the Middle East and the war in Ukraine, as well as the jockeying over the appropriations bills necessary to fund the government for 2024. But the House was in session for just two minutes today as the Republicans continued to struggle to get behind a new speaker, leaving Congress paralyzed.

    That paralysis means that the House is not addressing these crises.  

    The crisis in Israel is uppermost in the United States. The news has been plagued with disinformation as the algorithms on social media have promoted fake stories, but President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have been crystal clear in their condemnation of the attack on Israel by Hamas last Saturday and in their promise that the U.S. will stand with Israel.

    They have also made it clear that Israel must operate according to the rules of war in order to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas does not observe those rules, and various U.S. officials have compared Hamas’s brutality to that of the terrorist group ISIS, while nonetheless reinforcing the importance of the rule of law. Israeli officials say that 1,300 people were killed and more than 3,000 wounded in the initial attack; officials in Gaza say that Israeli airstrikes since have killed more than 1,500 people and wounded more than 6,600.

    The airstrikes, consisting of 6,000 munitions in six days, have forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes, and Israel has cut food, fuel, and electricity to Gaza, saying the siege will not end until all the hostages Hamas took are returned.  

    Talks with Egypt about constructing humanitarian corridors out of Gaza have broken down, but talks about rushing humanitarian aid into Gaza from Egypt continue.

    Secretary Blinken is in Israel and has expanded his trip to the troubled region, visiting not only Israel and Jordan, as originally announced, but also Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, where he will meet with senior officials. There, the State Department said, he will “reiterate his condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Israel in the strongest terms,” “reaffirm the United States’ solidarity with the government and people of Israel,” and “engage regional partners on efforts to help prevent the conflict from spreading, secure the immediate and safe release of hostages, and identify mechanisms for the protection of civilians.”

    Meanwhile, a former Hamas leader has called for protests across the Muslim world tomorrow and for Israel’s neighbors to join the fight against Israel.

    Starting tomorrow, the U.S. government will begin running charter flights to enable U.S. citizens and their immediate family members who have not been able to book commercial flights to leave Israel. Twenty-seven American citizens have been confirmed dead in the attack, and fourteen are unaccounted for.

    Tonight the Israeli military told the United Nations that the 1.1 million people in northern Gaza must evacuate into the southern part within 24 hours as it prepares to go into Gaza, at least in part to target the extensive network of tunnels Hamas has constructed for its operations. U.N. officials said the U.N. “considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences.”

    The crisis in Ukraine has not ended while all eyes are on the crisis in the Middle East. The Institute for the Study of War concluded that Russian forces have launched “a significant and ongoing offensive effort” in the past two days but “have not secured any major breakthroughs,” as Ukraine’s forces are “inflicting relatively heavy losses.” Like Israel, Ukraine needs additional funding.

    Meanwhile, House Republicans are further from reorganizing the House tonight than they were even a day ago. House majority leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), who won the conference’s secret ballot over Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) yesterday, has given up hope of turning that victory into a win on the House floor and has withdrawn from the race. Former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) broke the secrecy of the conference to tell reporters that Scalise didn’t have the votes, a signal that McCarthy is not intending to fade into the background of this struggle.

    Aaron Fritschner, the chief of staff for Representative Don Beyer (D-VA), noted today that since it’s mid-session, no new candidate for speaker has prime positions to offer in exchange for votes. Leadership positions have already been handed out, and legislative promises have already been made. That leaves a potential speaker with relatively little leverage to consolidate power.

    Representative David Joyce (R-OH) revealed how badly the negotiations are going when he told Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News that he’s talking to Republicans and Democrats about giving acting speaker Patrick McHenry (R-NC) more power for 30 to 60 days so that the House can pass a funding bill while the Republicans try to get their act together.

    The Republican chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mike McCaul of Texas, today told reporters, “Every day that goes by, it gets more dangerous.” He continued:  “I see a lot of threats out there, but one of the biggest threats I see is in that room [pointing to where the Republicans were meeting], because we can’t unify as a conference and put a speaker in the chair together.”

    House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) today said it is “urgently necessary” for the Republicans to “get their act together and elect a Speaker from within their own ranks, as it is the responsibility of the majority party to do, or have traditional Republicans break with the extremists within the House Republican Conference and partner with Democrats on a bipartisan path forward. We are ready, willing, and able to do so. I know there are traditional Republicans who are good women and men who want to see government function, but they are unable to do it within the ranks of their own conference, which is dominated by the extremist wing, and that’s why we continue to extend the hand of bipartisanship to them.”

    Journalist Brian Tyler Cohen, who hosts the podcast No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen, summed up the day when he wrote: “The fact that ALL Republicans would rather fight over Scalise (who attended a neo-Nazi event) or Jordan (who allegedly covered up rampant sexual abuse) rather than simply work with Democrats to elect a Speaker says it all.”


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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 13, 2023 (Friday)

    Today marks ten days since the United States House of Representatives voted to toss out the speaker, leaving the House unable to conduct business. This situation is unprecedented. And yet the Republicans cannot manage to elect a new speaker from among their ranks, and the party’s leadership refuses to work with the Democrats, who remain united behind House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). Jeffries has repeatedly offered to work with the Republicans.

    Now the House has recessed for the weekend.

    With a war in Europe and a war in the Middle East and government funding running out on November 17, not to mention all the other work that falls to Congress, the House did not hold a single floor vote this week.

    Essentially, the Republican extremists have paralyzed the government in the midst of an unusually dangerous time. While President Joe Biden and the Democrats are trying to demonstrate that democracy works better than authoritarianism, they seem bent on undermining that idea.

    Here’s how the day played out: After Louisiana representative Steve Scalise withdrew from the contest yesterday, Ohio representative Jim Jordan was the only one running until a relatively unknown representative, Austin Scott of Georgia, threw his hat in the ring as an anti-Jordan candidate. Scott, who had previously taken a stand against the extremists, said: “We are in Washington to legislate, and I want to lead a House that functions in the best interest of the American people.” When the conference voted, Scott won 81 votes to Jordan’s 124, with 16 of the members not showing up for the vote.

    When the conference held another secret vote to count how many people would support Jordan in a floor vote, only 152 said they would. Fifty-five said no, and one voted present. Jordan remains a long way from the 217 votes he needs to win the chair if all members are present, and his allies’ threats to vulnerable members that if they did not support him they could expect to face primary challenges did not endear him to the holdouts.

    Some Republicans are now calling for acting speaker Patrick McHenry (R-NC) to have more powers than simply arranging for the election of a new speaker. But since the Constitution specifies that “[t]he House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker” and McHenry was tapped by former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) alone to replace him in case of an emergency, that’s likely going to be a hard sell.

    Others are hoping to reelect McCarthy himself. While McCarthy says he is backing Jordan, he is also spending time in front of the television cameras acting like a leader. Being begged to reclaim the speakership would undoubtedly give him more power than he had before the extremists toppled him.

    It remains astonishing that the Republicans would consider making Jordan speaker. The hallmarks of that position are an ability to negotiate and to shepherd legislation through Congress (think of all former speaker Nancy Pelosi got done with the same slim majority the Republicans have). Jordan has none of those qualities; he is a flamethrower who, in 16 years in the House, has not managed to get a single bill through the House, let alone into law. Jordan’s elevation would reflect that for many years now, Republicans have elevated those who disdain government and whose goal is to stop it from working.

    Jordan is also a key Trump ally who worked to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Former representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) has been clear she opposes Jordan’s elevation to House speaker. Today she wrote:

    “Jim Jordan was involved in Trump's conspiracy to steal the election and seize power; he urged that [former vice president Mike] Pence refuse to count lawful electoral votes. If R[epublican]s nominate Jordan to be Speaker, they will be abandoning the Constitution. They’ll lose the House majority and they’ll deserve to.”

    The Republicans plan to hold yet another conference on Monday and hope to elect a speaker on Tuesday. But it is not at all clear they can agree on a candidate. Representative Don Bacon (R-NE) is one of those who is beginning to talk about bipartisanship as a matter of practicality. “A lot of folks are in denial but you're never gonna get eight or 10 folks on board. And so I think the bipartisan path is going to be the only way out,” he told Arthur Delany of HuffPost.

    (Another limited letter tonight, just to mark events that are U.S.- and time-specific. I’ll catch up on other big stories in the next few days.)


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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
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    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

    The nights I post a picture are often harder for me than the nights I write. I am not a visual artist, and so I struggle for way too long over what picture to post and then struggle even longer over how to caption the image I choose.

    But tonight's picture and its caption were easy.

    I learned this information last Sunday, and it was just about the best birthday present ever.

    And writing the caption was a breeze. It reads:

    Thank you. Thank you all for helping me to write this book, and for helping me make sense of the chaos we've been enduring now for far too long. And, above all, thank you for helping me keep the faith, no matter how bonkers things have gotten.

    I am honored to be part of this community, and I am eager to see where we go from here.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 15, 2023 (Sunday)

    “We came here with four key objectives,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Egypt: “to make clear that the United States stands with Israel; to prevent the conflict from spreading to other places; to work on securing the release of hostages, including American citizens; and to address the humanitarian crisis that exists in Gaza.”

    Blinken has been traveling country to country in the Middle East since shortly after the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas fighters, who crossed into Israel and killed at least 1,300 people, of whom more than 1,000 were civilians, 30 were Americans, 12 were Thais, and 2 were French nationals. They also took 126 hostages, including not only Israelis, apparently, but also 8 Germans, 5 U.S. nationals, and 2 Mexican nationals.

    Retaliatory strikes by Israeli forces on Gaza since then have killed at least 2,670 people and displaced almost a million. Israel has stopped food, water, fuel, and electricity from getting to Gaza and has told the more than a million residents in northern Gaza to move south to clear the way for a military incursion. Israeli energy minister Israel Katz said the siege would continue until Hamas frees the hostages. About 500 U.S. citizens are in Gaza.

    The Biden administration has been pushing diplomacy to stop the crisis from spreading. On October 11, Blinken traveled to Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and then to Jordan, where he met with the head of the Palestinian Authority that exercises limited government in the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas.

    Then he went on to Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Virtually everywhere, he said, he found “a shared view that we have to do everything possible to make sure this doesn’t spread to other places; a shared view to safeguard innocent lives; a shared view to get assistance to Palestinians in Gaza who need it, and we’re working very much on that.”

    Blinken emphasized that the U.S. will stand with Israel “today, tomorrow, and every day…in word and also in deed.” He noted that the U.S. has moved a second carrier strike group (CSG) to the Eastern Mediterranean. A CSG is a powerful, flexible group of about 7,500 sailors and Marines on a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, a replenishment ship (which carries oil and supplies), a cruiser, destroyers, and a submarine, as well as various aircraft.

    The U.S. maintains 11 CSGs. Two of them are now in the Eastern Mediterranean not as provocation, Blinken said, but “as a deterrent. It’s meant to make clear that no one should do anything that could add fuel to the fire in any other place.” Sending two CSGs to the region is a strong statement, almost certainly designed to address threats by Iran that it will “respond” if Israel proceeds with a ground invasion of Gaza.

    Iran backs Hamas—although there is not yet evidence that Iranian officials directly helped plan the October 7 attack—and also backs Hezbollah, the militant group that controls southern Lebanon. Today, clashes broke out on the border between Israel and Lebanon as Hezbollah fired missiles into Israel and Israeli forces fired artillery back.

    Israel has “the right—indeed it has the obligation—to defend itself against these attacks from Hamas, and to try to do what it can to make sure that this never happens again,” Blinken said. But, he added, “[i]t needs to do it in a way that affirms the shared values that we have for human life and human dignity, taking every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians.”

    United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres implored Hamas to release the hostages immediately and Israel to grant “rapid and unimpeded access…for humanitarian supplies and workers for the sake of the civilians in Gaza,” which “is running out of water, electricity and other essential supplies.” These two issues must not become bargaining chips, he said. “[W]e are on the verge of the abyss in the Middle East.” Opening a gate between Gaza and Egypt would allow supplies to be brought in and would help to move refugees south, away from the northern areas Israel is expected to attack.  

    Relief for Gaza’s people has been bottled up on the Egyptian side of the border as Israeli officials refuse to guarantee their forces will not bomb relief trucks out of concern they are carrying weapons. The U.S. has put strong pressure on Israel to reopen the water supply to Gaza, especially in the southern region since the influx of refugees was already stressing supplies, and today Israel did so, but observers say that without electricity and fuel, the pumping stations and the plants that take salt out of the water don’t work.

    The U.S. is also clearly working to get the U.S. hostages released, but officials will not talk about the details of that operation.

    Today President Biden appointed Ambassador David Satterfield as the U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues, charging him with bringing “urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza, in coordination with the U.N., Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and other regional stakeholders.”

    A diplomat since 1980, Satterfield has worked in countries all over the region for both Republican and Democratic administrations. He has served as the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, U.S. deputy chief of mission in Iraq, assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and director general of the body overseeing peace between Israel and Egypt.

    “There are two very different visions for the future and what the Middle East can and should be,” Blinken said today. The U.S. stands behind a vision “that has countries in the region normalizing their relations, integrating, working together in common purpose, and upholding and bringing forth the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.”

    The other vision is the one Hamas embraces: “a vision of death, of destruction, of nihilism, of terrorism. That’s a vision that does nothing to advance aspirations for Palestinians, that does nothing to help create better futures for people in the region, and does everything to bring total darkness to everyone that it’s able to affect.”

    The visions are clear, Blinken said. He said he had no doubt that the overwhelming majority of people in the region would choose the first if given the chance. So it is the responsibility of “all of us who believe in that first path…to make it real, to bring it to light, to make it a clear, affirmative choice. And that’s what we’re determined to do…. If we do that, everyone in this region will be in a much better place and so will the rest of the world.”

    And yet that vision must be reinforced at home. The murder of a six-year-old child and the attempted murder of the child’s mother yesterday in Illinois by their 71-year-old landlord prompted the president to warn against Islamophobia. The family was Palestinian and had immigrated to the U.S. “seeking what we all seek—a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace,” Biden said. The child was born in the U.S.

    “This horrific act of hate has no place in America, and stands against our fundamental values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and who we are,” Biden said.  
    “We join everyone here at the White House in sending our condolences and prayers to the family, including for the mother’s recovery, and to the broader Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim American communities.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 16, 2023 (Monday)

    This morning, the Justice Department announced that the United States has reached a settlement with the plaintiffs in the case of Ms. L. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a class action lawsuit filed in 2018 over the Trump administration's policy of separating parents and children at the southwest border to deter migrants. That policy, implemented in 2017 and 2018, resulted in more than 5,500 children being separated from their parents.

    In 2018 a judge ordered the families reunited, but it turned out the Trump administration had not kept records of the family members. As soon as he took office, President Joe Biden appointed a task force to accomplish the reunifications, but 85 children are still separated from their families. The task force also found that 290 of the children removed from their parents were U.S. citizens.

    The lawsuit charged that the policy broke a number of U.S. laws—seeking asylum is legal, and taking children away from their parents without cause is not—and the settlement seeks both to heal the victims of the policy and to make sure it never happens again. The affected families will have a different process for applying for asylum than other migrants and will have access to benefits such as work authorization, possible housing assistance, immigration lawyers, and mental health care to address the trauma of the separations, and the government will agree not to turn back to such a policy in the future.

    “The separation of families at our southern border was a betrayal of our nation’s values,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “By providing services to these families and implementing policies to prevent future separations, today’s agreement addresses the impacts of those separations and helps ensure that nothing like this happens again.”

    The judge will need to approve the settlement.

    MAGA Republicans seem unconcerned with what the law says. Indeed, they have been working hard to discredit the law in order to protect former president Trump, attacking the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. After Trump has publicly attacked prosecutors and witnesses in the case over his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Judge Tanya Chutkan today prohibited him from such attacks on the court’s staff, witnesses, testimony, and prosecutors.

    Last week, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) called for shutting down the government in November unless Democrats agree to cutting all spending for processing or releasing into the country any new migrants. He says the demand is “non-negotiable.” But U.S. and international law require the U.S. to process asylum requests, even if a migrant arrives in between legal points of entry.

    Former senior Department of Homeland Security lawyer Tom Jawetz told Greg Sargent of the Washington Post that Jordan’s plan “would be both illegal and a practical impossibility.” Administration officials “are legally obligated to process people for asylum on request,” he said. “It’s not a choice.”

    But therein lies the heart of today’s Republican Party: its extremist leaders no longer believe that rules apply to them. Jordan, a staunch ally of Trump, was key to the former president’s efforts to steal the 2020 presidential election. He is now gathering votes for a bid to become the speaker of the House of Representatives after the MAGA extremists threw former House speaker Kevin McCarthy out.

    In 2017, former Republican House speaker John Boehner told journalist Tim Alberta: “Jordan was a terrorist as a legislator going back to his days in the Ohio House and Senate…. A terrorist. A legislative terrorist.” In 2021, he clarified: “I just never saw a guy who spent more time tearing things apart—never building anything, never putting anything together.”

    After a secret ballot showed that 55 of his colleagues would not support him in a floor vote, Jordan has insisted on a public vote, putting his colleagues under pressure to support him and thus to support Trump. They are caving, one at a time.

    But Representative Don Bacon (R-NE) called out the MAGA group that revolted repeatedly against the Republican conference and now is demanding Republican unity for the unpopular Jordan, forcing the party to fully embrace Trump. “I can’t abide by the fact a small group violated the rules to get what they wanted [and] now I’m supposed to play by the rules,” Bacon said. “I think we’ve got to have consequences, and you’ve got to stand up for this. That’s what Americans do.”

    We used to be able to assume that Americans did, in fact, play by the rules, accepting the principle of the rule of law. That principle is now openly challenged here in the U.S.

    That principle is also at stake around the world. In a piece in The Atlantic on October 9, foreign policy journalist Anne Applebaum noted the fragility of the rules-based international order, a system of norms and values established after World War II in an attempt to create a system for resolving international disputes, preventing territorial wars, and ending no-holds-barred slaughter.

    A series of agreements, including the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. Genocide Convention, and the Geneva Conventions on the laws of war established those rules, and while they have often been flouted, they offered grounds for challenging those nations and military personnel who broke them.

    Applebaum pointed out that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians “are both blatant rejections of that rules-based world order, and they herald something new. Both aggressors have deployed a sophisticated, militarized, modern form of terrorism, and they do not feel apologetic or embarrassed about this at all.” They feel justified in ignoring the rules-based international order and sowing terror and chaos among civilians.

    Their “goal is to undo whatever remains of the rules-based world order, and to put anarchy in its place. They did not hide their war crimes. Instead, they filmed them and circulated the videos online.” Applebaum suggests “we might miss the Geneva Conventions when they are gone.”

    Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have made no secret of their determination to strengthen the rules-based international order, and tonight the White House announced that Biden will travel on Wednesday to the Middle East, where he will visit Israel before traveling to Jordan, where he will meet with the country’s leader King Abdullah II, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.

    We might miss the idea of the rule of law here at home if we continue to empower MAGA Republicans. Voters in Poland missed it, and yesterday 73% of them turned out to oust from power the nationalist-conservative party that, Anne Applebaum notes in a different Atlantic article, “turned state television into a propaganda tube, used state companies to fund its political campaigns,… politicized state administration[,]… altered electoral laws and even leaked top-secret military documents, manipulating their contents for electoral gain.”

    Opponents of the ruling party, which took power in 2015, came together in a coalition that rejected angry nationalism in favor of civic patriotism, met in demonstrations around the country, featured women prominently in their campaigns, promised to end Poland’s strong abortion restrictions, and offered closer cooperation with Europe.

    Rebuilding democracy will be neither fast nor easy, Applebaum notes, but “Poland shows that autocracy is not inevitable.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 17, 2023 (Tuesday)

    This morning, the Ukrainian military launched a surprise attack on two Russian airfields in occupied Ukraine, using a longer-range missile system secretly supplied in the last few weeks by the United States. The Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, has a range of about 100 miles, or 161 kilometers. It enabled the Ukrainians to damage runways and destroy nine Russian helicopters. The missiles also killed a number of Russian soldiers. One of the conditions of Ukraine’s acquisition of these weapons was that they would only be used within Ukraine against the occupiers, not in Russia itself.

    The thirty-one M1 Abrams main battle tanks the U.S. had promised Ukraine have all arrived, the U.S. confirmed today. All the Ukrainian military personnel who trained to use those tanks in Germany have also returned.

    A recent Russian offensive has been largely unsuccessful, while the Ukrainian goal of dividing the Russian invaders in two (much as the U.S. did to the Confederacy) has been partially achieved but troops have not punched through. At the same time, strategic Ukrainian attacks have pushed Russia’s Black Sea fleet out of its main base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, and the Institute for the Study of War assesses that the attacks on the airfields will force Russia to pull its aircraft back and either to disperse its ammunition depots or to fortify them.

    Meanwhile, the struggle in the House of Representatives today looked like a preview of the 2024 election.

    Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), a staunch supporter of former president Trump and a key figure in the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, is pushing hard for election as speaker, emphasizing how imperative it is for the House Republicans to enable the House to get back to business. As Karoun Demirjian outlined in the New York Times, Jordan and his allies have deployed a pressure campaign against those Republicans opposed to him, as she puts it, “working to unleash the rage of the party’s base voters against any lawmaker standing in his way.”

    This is the same tactic that the extremists have used for decades to move the Republican Party to the right. But there is a different dynamic at play in this speakership crisis. Jordan and his allies created the crisis in the first place by supporting Trump’s demands to shut down the government, tossing out former speaker Kevin McCarthy because he would not agree to shut down the government, and refusing to abide by the vote of the Republican conference to accept the choice of the majority: first McCarthy and then Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA).

    There is another way in which this moment is different. Jordan is a flamethrower who was one of the original organizers of the right-wing Freedom Caucus. Republicans saw McCarthy, who was an excellent fundraiser, as a pro-business Republican who worked with the far right, but Jordan is the real deal: a far-right extremist. Republican donors have already suggested they are not enthusiastic about working with him to fund Republican candidates.

    The third way this moment is different is that putting Jordan in the speaker’s chair makes him, along with Trump, the face of the Republican Party going into the 2024 election. Representative Pete Aguilar (D-CA) previewed the many downsides of Jordan as speaker when he nominated Democratic minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) for the speaker’s chair. Aguilar blamed extremism and partisanship for the unprecedented chaos of the House and urged the Republicans to embrace bipartisanship to do the work the American people had sent them to Washington, D.C., to conduct.

    Aguilar noted that Jordan was “the architect of a nationwide abortion ban, a vocal election denier, and an insurrection inciter.” He has “spent his entire career trying to hold our country back, putting our national security in danger, attempting government shutdown after government shutdown, wasting taxpayer dollars on baseless investigations with dead ends, authoring the very bill that would ban abortion nationwide without exceptions, and inciting violence on this chamber. Even leaders of his own party have called him ‘a legislative terrorist.’”

    Aguilar pointed out Jordan’s opposition to disaster relief, veterans’ relief, support for Ukraine, and military aid to our allies, including Israel, and added: “This body is debating elevating a speaker nominee who has not passed a single bill in 16 years. These are not the actions of someone interested in governing or bettering the lives of everyday Americans.” Jordan as speaker would mean the Republican Party would “continue taking marching orders from a twice-impeached former president with more than 90 pending felony charges.”

    Even without mentioning Jordan’s involvement with the cover-up of a sexual assault scandal at Ohio State, Aguilar put Republicans on notice that placing Jordan at the head of the party would have brutal consequences in Democratic campaign ads.

    When House members voted for speaker, the Democrats were unified behind Jeffries, who won all 212 of their votes. Jordan won only 200 of the 217 votes necessary to become speaker, with 20 Republicans voting for someone else. His allies initially said they would call a second vote tonight but changed their minds, apparently realizing that another loss would weaken his candidacy significantly. They say they will hold another vote tomorrow.

    Tonight, hundreds of people were killed in an explosion at a packed hospital in Gaza City. Palestinian authorities blamed an Israeli airstrike for the explosion; hours later, Israel Defense Forces said the explosion was a misfired missile launched as part of a “barrage of rockets” by the Islamic Jihad militant group. Neither version of events has been confirmed.

    Governments around the region have blamed Israel and sometimes the U.S. for the catastrophic loss of life, and protests have broken out in Lebanon, Iran, and Turkey as President Joe Biden travels to the region personally to demonstrate U.S. support for Israel, pressure Israel to permit humanitarian aid into Gaza, learn any new information about the hostages, and to try to keep the conflict from widening and escalating.

    Biden will meet in Tel Aviv, Israel, with Israeli leaders, first responders, and families of hostages, but the second leg of his trip—to Jordan, for a meeting with King Abdullah II, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi—was canceled as Abbas rushed home. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters Biden would speak with Abbas and Sisi on the trip back to the U.S.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 18, 2023 (Wednesday)

    President Joe Biden spoke today in Tel Aviv, Israel, reiterating support for the Israelis but also hammering on the need to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

    Biden called the actions of Hamas “pure unadulterated evil” and noted that such brutality “would have cut deep anywhere in the world, but it cuts deeper here in Israel.” “The attack,” he said, “has brought to the surface painful memories and scars left by…millennia of antisemitism and the genocide of the Jewish people.” In the past, he said, the world watched and did nothing, but “[w]e will not stand by and do nothing again. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”

    Biden promised the U.S. is working to recover the hostages, and he empathized with those who had lost loved ones. He promised that Israel would always be a safe home for the Jewish people. He promised military aid and once again warned “any state or any other hostile actor thinking about attacking Israel…. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.”

    But in a statement that spoke to the Arab world, Biden also warned Israel not to give into the “primal feeling” of “[s]hock, pain,… an all-consuming rage.” “I caution this,” he said: “While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. And while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.”

    Biden also appeared to speak to the administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he spoke about what it means to be a war leader. “[I]t requires being deliberate,” he said. “It requires asking very hard questions. It requires clarity about the objectives and an honest assessment about whether the path you are on will achieve those objectives.”
    “The vast majority of Palestinians are not Hamas. Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people.”

    Biden reiterated that Hamas uses families in Gaza as human shields, putting command centers, weapons, and communications tunnels in residential areas. “The Palestinian people are suffering greatly as well,” Biden said. And then he took on the issue of yesterday’s explosion at the hospital in Gaza, expressing outrage and sadness.

    And then he clarified what had happened in that explosion: “Based on the information we’ve seen to date, it appears the result of an errant rocket fired by a terrorist group in Gaza.” This statement reflects the assessment of the U.S. Defense Department and was echoed today by the Senate Intelligence Committee, with a Democratic majority, and the House Intelligence Committee, with a Republican majority.  

    “While we continue to collect information, our current assessment, based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open source information, is that Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said today.

    Biden went on to explain that the United States stands unequivocally for the protection of civilian life during conflict—a key tenet of the laws of war—and said “I grieve—I truly grieve for the families who were killed or wounded by this tragedy.”

    “The people of Gaza need food, water, medicine, shelter,” Biden said, adding that he had asked the Israeli cabinet to agree to the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. He said that Israel has agreed, based on the promise that the aid would go to civilians. Should Hamas divert or steal that aid, he said, access will stop and Hamas “will have demonstrated once again that they have no concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people.” Biden said the U.S. is working closely with Egypt and the United Nations to get trucks moving across the border as quickly as possible. It is also demanding that the International Red Cross be able to visit Hamas’s hostages.

    Biden also announced that the U.S. will dedicate $100 million in new funding for humanitarian assistance in Gaza and the West Bank to help the more than 1 million displaced Palestinians.

    Biden urged Israelis to remember that their state is a democracy. It must live not by the rules of terrorists, but by the rule of law. “What sets us apart from the terrorists is we believe in the fundamental dignity of every human life—Israeli, Palestinian, Arab, Jew, Muslim, Christian—everyone,” he said. “You can’t give up what makes you who you are. If you give that up, then the terrorists win.  And we can never let them win.”

    “Nations of conscience like the United States and Israel are not measured solely by the example of their power,” he said. “We’re measured by the power of our example. That’s why, as hard as it is, we must keep pursuing peace. We must keep pursuing a path so that Israel and the Palestinian people can both live safely, in security, in dignity, and in peace.” “For me, that means a two-state solution,” he said. He also reiterated that Israel must be better integrated with its neighbors.

    “May God protect all those who work for peace,” Biden concluded. “God save those who are still in harm’s way.”

    The speech was one of Biden’s best, drawing on personal experience, religion, history, politics, and the present. But it was not just rhetoric. Biden’s personal arrival in an area at war—his second as president—and his adamant support for Israel were a key demonstration that the U.S. does not want this war to expand, either by the introduction of the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia or by Israeli overreaction in the Palestinian territories.

    It also put Netanyahu on notice that the U.S. is watching his actions. As David Rothkopf discussed today in The Daily Beast, Netanyahu allied himself with former president Trump and has appeared to consider his U.S. relationships with right-wing figures more important than his relationship with Biden. Now, with his own government on shaky ground as Israelis blame him for failing to protect them, Netanyahu jumped at the chance to be seen with Biden, whose response to the explosion and his steady handling of the ongoing crisis has made him enormously popular.

    On Air Force One on the way home, Biden told reporters that his quest to get humanitarian aid had succeeded. Egypt has agreed to send up to 20 trucks of aid to Gaza, seemingly testing whether the aid will get through and if it will disappear into the hands of Hamas. If Hamas “doesn’t let it get through or just confiscates it, then it’s going to end,” Biden said. He continued: “[T]he bottom line is that [Egyptian president Abdel Fattah] El-Sisi deserves some real credit because he was very accommodating and, quite frankly, as everyone I’ve spoken to thus far since this trip began.”

    Biden said that Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues David Satterfield was already in Cairo to coordinate the aid.

    When reporters asked if Biden was disappointed that his trip to Jordan was canceled, the president said no and laughed. “Disappointed? Look, I came to get something done. I got it done…. Not many people thought we could get this done, and not many people want to be associated with failure…. [H]ad we gone and this failed, then, you know, the United States failed, Biden’s presidency fails, et cetera, which would be a legitimate criticism…. I thought it was worth taking the chance to get it done.”

    Biden’s steady hand, experience, and courage stood in contrast today to the House Republicans in the ongoing fight to elect a speaker. Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a far-right extremist and key Trump ally, lost more votes in the second round of voting than in the first, in part because he and his allies infuriated colleagues by threatening people. After saying yesterday that it was imperative to finish the balloting and get on to the people’s business, today he announced he would not retire from his crusade but would keep trying to get the votes he needs as the crisis stretches into a third week.

    The House will vote again tomorrow, but Republicans predict Jordan’s support will fall even further. Some Republicans are exploring the possibility of sidestepping the question of electing a speaker by expanding the powers of acting speaker Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC).

    On Thursday night, President Biden will address the nation from the Oval Office.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 19, 2023 (Thursday)

    This book tour has finally caught up with me and I've hit the wall. Simply must get a decent night's sleep, so will leave it here and pick it up tomorrow. Lots of pieces moving on lots of chess boards, but I think—hope!— they can all wait a day.

    Buddy's got more time to play with his camera since I'm away, and he's doing it to some purpose.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland]


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 20, 2023 (Friday)

    Last night, President Joe Biden spoke to the nation from the Oval Office to shore up U.S. support for Ukraine and Israel. “[H]istory has taught us that when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction.  They keep going, and the cost and the threats to America and to the world keep rising,” he said.

    “[I]f we walk away and let Putin erase Ukraine’s independence, would-be aggressors around the world would be emboldened to try the same,” he said. “The risk of conflict and chaos could spread in other parts of the world—in the Indo-Pacific… [and] especially in the Middle East.”

    Biden noted that Russian president Vladimir Putin has suggested he might like to take part of Poland, while one of his top advisors has called three other NATO allies, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Russia’s “Baltic provinces.” Russian aggression there would draw the U.S. into war.

    Iran is supporting Russia in Ukraine, he noted, and “it’s supporting Hamas and other terrorist groups” in the Middle East.

    “The United States and our partners across the region are working to build a better future for the Middle East, one where the Middle East is more stable, better connected to its neighbors, and—through innovative projects like the India–Middle East–Europe rail corridor that I announced this year at the summit of the world’s biggest economies—more predictable markets, more employment, less rage, less grievances, less war when connected. It…would benefit the people of the Middle East, and it would benefit us.”

    Biden explained that he was sending to Congress “an urgent budget request to fund America’s national security needs, to support our critical partners, including Israel and Ukraine. It’s a smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations, help us keep American troops out of harm’s way, help us build a world that is safer, more peaceful, and more prosperous for our children and grandchildren,” he said.

    That money, he said, would harden the Iron Dome that protects Israel’s skies after the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas that took more than 1,300 lives. But he also said that the U.S. “remains committed to the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and to self-determination. The actions of Hamas terrorists don’t take that right away”

    He explained that he had discussed with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu “the critical need for Israel to operate by the laws of war. That means protecting civilians in combat as best as they can. The people of Gaza urgently need food, water, and medicine.” Biden secured an agreement for such relief when he visited Israel on Wednesday, but so far the route from Egypt has not opened, at least in part because Israel and Egypt can’t agree on a way to inspect the trucks to make sure they are not carrying weapons.

    Ethan Bronner and Henry Meyer of Bloomberg reported yesterday that President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin have pressured Israel more deeply than any recent administration, demanding they adjust their planned ground assault on Gaza to minimize civilian casualties and think about what happens when the assault is over. U.S. officials are worried that Israel’s response to the October 7 attack could prompt Hezbollah to join the war, scuttling the administration’s attempt to stabilize the region and drawing the U.S. further into the conflict.

    But Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners who have backed further settlements in the West Bank are eager to exact revenge on the Palestinians there, killing at least seven in the last week. U.S. officials told Thomas Friedman of the New York Times that “the representatives of those settlers in the cabinet are withholding tax money owed the Palestinian Authority [that exercises authority over the West Bank], making it harder for it to keep the West Bank as under control as it has been since the start of the Hamas war.” Netanyahu, who has been charged with corruption and fraud, needs those partners in order to remain prime minister and thus stay out of jail.

    Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is worsening as Israel has launched extensive airstrikes, killing what U.N. observers estimate to be more than 2,800 Palestinians, including several relatives of former representative Justin Amash (Libertarian-Michigan) who had been sheltering in a church. It has also driven about a million people of the 2.3 million in Gaza from their homes. Hospitals are closed, and food and water are scarce.

    Foreign policy journalist Laura Rozen of Diplomatic gave Biden credit for his attempt to calm the region, support Israel, and protect Palestinian civilians but was, she said, “very worried” that the conflict would drag out and “inflame & destabilize [the] region & spark blowback & it will be very very ugly.” The U.S. had not been able to get “a single truck of aid into Gaza, much less set up a quasi-safe zone…five days after it thought it had a deal to do so.” It is not helping that X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, is amplifying disinformation about the crisis.

    The U.S. and governments in Europe have pressured Israel not to go into Gaza while diplomats in Qatar try to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas. Today, Hamas released two dual U.S. citizens who had been held hostage in Gaza.

    In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) took a different tack, noting that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (believed to be the group responsible for the hospital explosion in Gaza) received more than $130 million in cryptocurrency in the past two years, and researchers believe this is just a fraction of the total. Cryptocurrency funds crime and terror, they wrote: more than $20 billion in illicit transactions last year “that we know of.”

    Those exchanges are currently unregulated, and Warren and Marshall have introduced the bipartisan Digital Asset Anti–Money Laundering Act to bring digital assets under the same rules that regulate traditional payment systems.

    Today the administration asked Congress for a little over $105 billion in funding for national security. The package would devote $61.4 billion to support Ukraine (some of it to replenish U.S. stockpiles after sending weapons to Ukraine); $14.3 billion to Israel for air and missile defense systems; $9.15 billion for humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Gaza, and other places; $7.4 billion for initiatives in the Indo-Pacific; and $14 billion for more agents at the southwestern border, new machines to detect fentanyl, and more courts to process asylum cases.

    But Congress is currently unable to act. Seventeen days after the extremists in the House Republican conference ousted then-speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the Republican civil war continues to paralyze the House. After key Trump ally Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) lost a second round of balloting on Wednesday, his allies apparently spent Thursday threatening the colleagues who didn’t vote for him.

    Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) explained: “So far I've had four death threats. I've been evicted from my office in Colorado…because the landlord is mad with my voting record on the Speaker issue. And everybody in the conference is getting this…. Family members have been approached and threatened, all kinds of things are going on….”

    The threats simply hardened Jordan’s opposition. He lost a third ballot today, with 25 Republicans voting against him, and in a secret ballot the Republicans took privately over whether to keep him as their nominee for speaker, only 86 voted for Jordan, with 112 against. The House recessed for the weekend, despite the mounting crises that need to be addressed.

    Having a key lieutenant in the House speaker’s chair, where he could, among other things, smear Biden by pushing to impeach him in the months before the election, would have been a huge boost for Trump. That Republicans refused to get behind Jordan even when he forced them into a public vote and then threatened them, much as Trump threatened them to line up behind him in the past, suggests they are starting to fear Trump less than they have for years.

    Three plea deals in the past two days have intensified Trump’s legal troubles. Two of his own lawyers, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, have pleaded guilty to some of the charges brought by Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney Fani Willis in the racketeering case against Trump and 17 others.

    Yesterday, Powell pleaded guilty to trying to tamper with voting machines. In exchange for a lenient sentence, she will have to testify against others. As she was the person Trump considered tapping as a special counsel to investigate alleged voter fraud, she was at a key meeting with Trump allies Rudy Giuliani, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, and former Overstock chief executive officer Patrick Byrne.

    Powell’s unexpected jump to the prosecution side—she was lying about the election just this week—put pressure on others, and today Chesebro also flipped. He was allegedly the one who designed the false electors scheme, although he has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file false documents. In exchange for a lenient sentence, he has to turn over any evidence he has and testify truthfully against others in the case, including Trump.

    In Michigan, a Republican man charged with participating in the false-elector plot also entered into a cooperation agreement yesterday, meaning he will talk to investigators and, if necessary, testify.

    Finally, today, Judge Arthur Engoron, who is overseeing the fraud case against Trump and the Trump Organization, fined Trump $5,000 for violating the gag order he had imposed on October 3. Trump told Engoron that day he had taken down a social media post disparaging one of Engoron’s law clerks, but it remained up on his campaign website.

    Engoron warned Trump that “future violations, whether intentional or unintentional, will subject the violator to far more severe sanctions, which may include, but are not limited to, steeper financial penalties, holding Donald Trump in contempt of court, and possibly imprisoning him pursuant to New York Judiciary Law.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 21, 2023 (Saturday)

    Today, a convoy of 20 trucks crossed into Gaza from Egypt to bring food, water, and hospital equipment. Secretary of State Antony Blinken thanked “our partners in Egypt and Israel, and the United Nations, for facilitating the safe passage of these shipments through the Rafah border crossing” after “days of exhaustive U.S. diplomatic engagement in the region and an understanding President Biden reached with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during his recent historic visit to Israel.” Since then, Special Envoy David Satterfield has worked to get the aid flowing.

    Israel had vowed not to allow any aid to Gaza until Hamas released the 210 hostages it is holding, but Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant explained that officials had to back down: “The Americans insisted and we are not in a place where we can refuse them. We rely on them for planes and military equipment. What are we supposed to do? Tell them no?”

    The convoy is a test to see if Hamas will permit the aid to get to civilians. Blinken warned that if it interferes, “it will hinder the international community from being able to provide this aid. Civilian lives must be protected, and assistance must urgently reach those in need. We will continue to work closely with partners in the region to stress the importance of adhering to the law of war, supporting those who are trying to get to safety or provide assistance, and facilitating access to food, water, medical care, and shelter for citizens wherever they are located in Gaza.”

    While more than 200 trucks are waiting at the border and Egypt says the crossing is now open permanently, the next convoy is not expected to cross the border until Monday, even as conditions in Gaza worsen.

    The U.S. is continuing to work to get U.S. citizens and their families out of Gaza through Egypt.

    Also today, Egypt held a hastily convened peace summit with leaders from Arab countries, Europe, Africa, and North America to figure out how to stop the violence in Gaza. While the parties were unable to agree on a statement, there was a broad consensus that Israel must abide by the laws of war, which prohibit making war on civilians. (Israel claims it honors this prohibition as it tries to eliminate Hamas and its infrastructure, and also to recover the hostages Hamas is holding. Hostage-taking is also prohibited by the rules of war.)

    Neither Israel nor Hamas was at the meeting. The head of the Palestinian Authority (which has partial control of the West Bank), Mahmoud Abbas, spoke for the Palestinians. He decried what he called war crimes as Israeli airstrikes kill civilians, and called for a two-state solution to the crisis, although a recent Gallup poll suggests a strong majority of Palestinians do not support that effort.
    Abbas’s call harks back to the longstanding plan for two independent states that Hamas rejects and that the 2020 Abraham Accords negotiated by the Trump administration undermined by normalizing relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain without providing for a Palestinian state. Since then, Israel has accelerated the settlement of Israelis on Palestinian lands in the West Bank.

    The call to resurrect a two-state solution was echoed by Egypt’s president Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who do not want Palestinians displaced by Israel to destabilize their countries. Chinese leader Xi Jinping backed that idea on Thursday in his first statement on the crisis, and in his own speech on Thursday, Biden also said, “We cannot give up on a two-state solution.”

    Meanwhile, Israel has increased its warnings to those in the north of Gaza of an approaching ground invasion, in which those who do not evacuate risk being “identified as a partner in a terrorist organization.”

    As this conflict plays out, observers have already identified widespread disinformation about it on social media. “X,” formerly known as Twitter, is one of the worst actors.

    In the U.S., such disinformation pits Americans against each other, and today the U.S. sent a cable to more than 100 countries warning that U.S. intelligence officials assess that Russia is using such methods to affect the elections around the world. A senior State Department official told reporters that Russia was so successful in amplifying disinformation about the 2020 U.S. election and the COVID-19 pandemic that the Kremlin decided to up its game.

    With that in mind, I'm going to ask you to keep comments on this post civil. Going forward, we're going to assume that the abusive stuff that is being written on every post about this crisis is by foreign trolls trying to stir up trouble, and ban them.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 22, 2023 (Sunday)

    A moment of calm before we pick up the news again in the morning.

    [Photo by Buddy Poland.]


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 23, 2023 (Monday)

    The word of the day is “conversations.”

    The White House and the Commerce Department announced the designation of 31 communities across 32 states and Puerto Rico in the first phase of the Regional Innovation and Technology Hub Program (Tech Hubs Program). The CHIPS and Science Act, signed into law in August 2022, authorized the creation of these hubs, where private industry, state and local governments, colleges and universities, labor unions, Tribal communities, and nonprofit organizations work together to innovate, create jobs, and protect our supply chains.

    The administration explained that because economic growth and opportunity has been “clustered in a few cities on the coasts,” the tech hubs selected were spread across the country. Nearly three quarters of them are in small cities or rural areas, and more than three quarters of them directly support historically underserved communities. The government will invest $500 million of public money in these hubs to attract private investment, hoping to create high-paying jobs and support innovation across the country.

    The hubs focus on autonomous systems for manufacturing and transportation, drugs and medical devices, healthcare, clean energy, semiconductors, and so on. They “will boost U.S. manufacturing, create more good-paying jobs and bolster U.S. global competitiveness,” said Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves.

    The administration is trying to sell the idea of investing in America rather than turning the economy over to the operation of markets. The latter has been the nation’s focus since 1981, but that ideology has not nurtured the economy so much as concentrated wealth among a few individuals. The White House has called instead for government investment in new industries, and it noted today that such investment has prompted record private investments in clean power and job growth in clean energy.

    Private companies have announced investments of about $133 billion in clean energy production, which has in turn helped to spur the strong job growth and robust economic growth. Employers have added about 260,000 jobs a month this year, on average.

    Today the ongoing United Auto Workers strike spread to a key Stellantis plant, where 6,800 workers walked off their jobs making Ram pickup trucks, Stellantis’s top-selling vehicle in the U.S. The strike will cost the company an estimated $110 million a week. There are now more than 40,000 UAW workers on strike. Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis have offered what union leader Shawn Fain says are record contracts but still not in line with the company’s record profits.

    The UAW has reached a tentative deal with General Dynamics, covering about 1,100 workers who make military vehicles at defense contracting facilities. Union members still have to approve the agreement.

    Conversations continue in foreign affairs as well.

    Today is the fortieth anniversary of the 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed 241 U.S. military personnel in the single deadliest day for the U.S. Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Minutes after the first bombing on that day, a second suicide bomber killed 58 French paratroopers. Six Lebanese civilians also died. Today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken recalled that tragedy and blamed it on Hezbollah militants, a charge Hezbollah denies.

    “As we reflect on this day, and in light of the ongoing challenges in Lebanon and the region, we remain committed to building a brighter future for Lebanon, the Lebanese people, and the broader Middle East,” Blinken said.

    Attacks from Hezbollah on Israel and Israeli retaliation have been increasing since the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, and the U.S. Embassy in Beirut has told American citizens who want to leave that they should go now. The Biden administration has warned Israel not to launch a preemptive strike against Hezbollah as the tensions on the border rise. The U.S. is also sending more air defense systems to the Middle East and is moving the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group to the Middle East to discourage attacks.  

    President Biden, Secretary Blinken and their teams have been talking constantly with those involved in the Middle East and elsewhere, trying to build coalitions to stave off an expansion of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, backed by Iran.

    On Sunday, after Biden spoke with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Pope Francis, Biden spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom. The latter group issued a joint statement reiterating their support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism and also called for all parties to keep within the bounds of international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.

    Today, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan submitted to the Turkish parliament a bill approving Sweden’s bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a step he has been delaying to pressure Sweden into clamping down on members of the Kurdistan Workers Party in Sweden, a party that aims to create an autonomous Kurdish region that would include parts of Turkey.

    While taking pains to emphasize that it is not making decisions for Israel, the U.S. has been stressing to Israeli leaders its discomfort with what seems to be a lack of a plan for a careful ground invasion of Gaza or for what would come after the ground operation. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller today declined to detail private conversations but offered: “[I]n all of our conversations we continue to talk to them about the importance of having meaningful goals, meaningful objectives, and a plan to achieve those objectives.”

    Miller used the word “conversation” twenty times in his press conference.
    Tomorrow, Secretary Blinken will travel to New York City for a United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East. He will also meet with his counterparts and with officials of the United Nations.

    As Israeli airstrikes pound Gaza and Hamas rockets fire back, relief trucks continue to trickle across the Egyptian border into Gaza. Fourteen crossed on Sunday; another small group today. Fuel, which is necessary to take the salt out of water as well as for medical care and transportation, is still embargoed out of Israeli concerns Hamas will take it for military purposes. Also today, Hamas released two more hostages, elderly Israeli women this time, for a total of four so far.

    Conversations of a different sort are going on among the Republican members of the House of Representatives, but they are unwilling to talk to their Democratic colleagues, who have repeatedly offered to work with those Republicans who reject MAGA extremism.

    Republicans remain unable to agree on a candidate for speaker. So far, they have shut down the House for three weeks, eating up 20 of the 45 days the continuing resolution bought for them to come up with measures to fund the government.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 24, 2023 (Tuesday)

    Another of Trump’s lawyers has pleaded guilty to charges as part of a cooperation agreement with the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney’s office. This morning, Jenna Ellis pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting false statements and writings as part of the plan to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. She is the fourth of the 19 people charged in the Georgia racketeering case to plead guilty.   

    In late September, bail bondsman Scott Hall, who helped to breach voting equipment and data in Coffee County, Georgia, pleaded guilty; lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro pleaded guilty last week.

    Ellis opposed Trump’s 2016 nomination but supported him after his election in frequent television appearances as a “constitutional law attorney” although she had not worked on election law. After Trump saw her on the Fox News Channel, Ellis became a “senior legal advisor” to Trump’s reelection campaign.

    After he lost, she was a very visible television spokesperson for the Big Lie that the election was stolen. On November 19, 2020, she joined Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee to insist that Democrats had rigged the voting in majority-Black cities and that communist forces in Venezuela had tampered with U.S. voting machines. She also peppered her social media feed with MAGA statements, mixing it up with anti-Trump figures, making her a more public figure than the other lawyers.

    Nonetheless, Trump declined to cover her legal fees after her indictment as a co-defendant in the Georgia racketeering case, possibly because she had supported Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s presidential bid. While Ellis said she had stopped supporting the former president because of his “narcissistic” tendencies, she continued to echo Trump’s rhetoric. In September she raised more than $216,000 for her legal defense fund from crowdfunding, claiming she was fighting “a weaponized government and the criminalization of the practice of law.”

    Today, in a court of law rather than in front of the television cameras, she sounded quite different.

    “As an attorney who is also a Christian, I take my responsibilities as a lawyer very seriously, and I endeavor to be a person of sound moral and ethical character in all of my dealings,” a tearful Ellis told the court. “I relied on others, including lawyers with many more years experience than I, to provide me with true and reliable information.” (Ellis worked closely with older Trump lawyer Giuliani; she will be 39 on November 1.)

    “If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these post-election challenges,” Ellis said in court. “I look back on this whole experience with deep remorse. For those failures of mine, your honor, I have taken responsibility already before the Colorado bar, who censured me, and I now take responsibility before this court and apologize to the people of Georgia.”

    Ellis’s plea agreement spelled out the statements she made that were lies. As legal analyst Joyce White Vance explained in Civil Discourse, this means the court has identified the specific lies that made up the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and that Ellis will testify that they are lies. Those claims include the lie that there were 96,000 fraudulent mail-in ballots, that 2,506 felons voted illegally, that 66,248 underage people illegally registered to vote, that 2,423 unregistered people voted, that more than 10,000 dead people voted, that Fulton County election workers counted ballots with no oversight.

    In the civil case in New York in which Trump, his older sons, two employees, and the Trump Organization are on trial for fraud, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen testified today that he and the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, would reverse engineer Trump’s financial statements to meet whatever number Trump wanted.

    His testimony suggested that the alleged massive fortune on which Trump based his identity, as well as his presidential bid, was an illusion.

    In a series of motions filed overnight, Trump’s defense team appears to be throwing anything it can at the wall to challenge the election conspiracy case in Washington, D.C.

    But as Trump’s legal peril escalates, Republicans in the House of Representatives continue to reject any House speaker who does not embrace Trump. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) today said, “We need a speaker of the House that reflects the values and the views of Republican voters across the country, and they support President Trump and they support his agenda.” Representative Troy Nehls (R-TX) suggested nominating Trump himself for the job.

    CNN’s Jake Tapper has had enough. “I'm covering life and death issues, serious tragedies, serious momentous occurrences here in Israel and of course in Gaza,” he said today. But, he said, “We have to interrupt this for one moment to cover the complete and utter clown car that is the House Republicans' Speaker's race.”

    House Republicans today selected Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN) as their choice for the post, only to have him drop out of the race after Trump, apparently angry that Emmer had dodged a question about whether he supported Trump’s nomination for president, turned on him.

    Trump went on social media to call Emmer, whose work in Congress has earned him a 79% lifetime approval rating from the right-wing Heritage Action for America, a “Globalist RINO,” meaning “Republican In Name Only.” Trump warned that Emmer “never respected the Power of a Trump Endorsement, or the breadth and scope of MAGA…. I believe he has now learned his lesson, because he is saying that he is Pro-Trump all the way, but who can ever be sure? Has he only changed because that’s what it takes to win?”

    Trump ally Ohio Representative Jim Jordan’s failure to win the speakership even after threatening his colleagues showed that Trump cannot put his chosen candidate into the chair, but Emmer’s failure to win the speakership suggests Trump’s opposition can keep a candidate out of it.

    Just hours after Emmer dropped out, the House Republican conference threw up a fourth candidate for speaker: Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana. Johnson is a self-described Christian and staunch Trump ally. He defended the former president during both of his impeachment trials and fought for Texas v. Pennsylvania, the key lawsuit contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election (the Supreme Court decided that Texas did not have standing to sue). He voted against certifying the 2020 election results.

    Johnson won the conference’s nomination with 128 votes to 29 votes for Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, who only entered Congress in 2021. In an interesting sign that Republicans might be reconsidering their rejection of former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) three weeks ago, 43 Republicans voted for him even though he was not standing for the position. Johnson told reporters he expects a floor vote at noon tomorrow.

    House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has offered a bipartisan deal in which Democrats would help Republicans elect a speaker. In exchange for their help, Democrats have said they want a candidate who is not an election denier and who agrees to hold up-or-down votes for bills that have broad support across the parties. Such a deal would mean some security for future elections. It would also mean that a measure funding Ukraine, which is popular across Congress but which the extremists oppose, would get a hearing.

    So would funding the government.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 25, 2023 (Wednesday)

    Today, the United States House of Representatives elected a new speaker to replace former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who was ousted by Republican extremists. The new speaker, Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, had an advantage over rivals because he has been a backbencher in the House fewer than eight years, too invisible to have made many enemies. He is the least-experienced speaker in more than a century.

    Senate Republicans openly admitted they didn’t know who he was. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) added: “Apparently experience isn’t necessary for the speaker job…. We’re down to folks who haven’t had leadership or chairmanship roles, which means their administration of the House will be a new experience for them.”

    The Republican conference decided to back Johnson after extremists scuttled their first choice after McCarthy, Louisiana representative Steve Scalise, and after a block of Republicans refused to back Trump loyalist Jim Jordan of Ohio. After Jordan, Minnesota representative Tom Emmer got the nod from the conference…until former president Trump expressed his disapproval.

    Democrats repeatedly offered to work with Republicans to elect a speaker who accepted the results of the 2020 presidential election and who agreed to bring to the floor for an up-or-down vote legislation that was widely popular in both parties. The Republicans rejected those offers.

    Instead, they have elected a pro-Trump extremist as speaker.

    Johnson was instrumental in Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Routinely in touch with Trump, he rallied his colleagues to object to counting the electoral votes from states that Democratic candidate Joe Biden won. As Trump’s legal challenges to the results failed, Johnson pushed a Texas lawsuit against the four states that had given Biden the win, calling for the invalidation of millions of his fellow Americans’ ballots, and echoed lies about Venezuelan interference with ballots.

    Johnson has also embraced the far right’s culture wars. He is a self-described evangelical Christian who is staunchly anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-union, and anti-immigration. He has close ties to the Israeli right wing, and he opposes further aid to Ukraine, saying such money would be better spent at home, but he has also called for extensive cuts to domestic spending programs.

    When a reporter asked Johnson about his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, the colleagues surrounding him booed and told the reporter to “shut up.” On the floor of the House, every single Republican voted for Johnson.

    And so, the House Republicans have caved to the MAGA extremists. Representative Pete Aguilar (D-CA) said that for the Republicans, the search for a speaker hadn’t been about looking for someone interested in “growing the middle class, helping our communities, keeping the cost of healthcare lower, and making life for everyday Americans better.” Instead, Aguilar said, “this has been about one thing…who can appease Donald Trump. House Republicans have put their names behind someone who has been called the most important architect of the [2020] electoral college objections.” A Republican yelled back: “Damn right!”

    The Republicans appear to be planning to go before the voters in 2024 with a presidential candidate who is deeply enmeshed in trials over allegedly criminal behavior, whose hastily appointed Supreme Court justices overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision recognizing the constitutional right to abortion, and who tried to steal the 2020 election. Alongside him, they have now elevated a fervently anti-abortion House speaker who backed the former president’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

    Voters resoundingly rejected both of those positions in 2022.

    In contrast to his Republican colleagues, in his welcome to the new speaker, House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) outlined his caucus’s efforts to work with Republicans in a bipartisan way, noting that it was the Democrats who provided the votes to raise the debt ceiling, to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government and thus avoid a shutdown, and to secure disaster assistance for Americans suffering from extreme weather events.

    Going forward, he said, House Democrats will “continue to push back against extremism in this chamber and throughout the country. House Democrats will continue to protect Social Security, protect Medicare, protect Medicaid, protect our children, protect our climate, protect low-income families, protect working families, protect the middle class, protect organized labor, protect the LGBTQ community, protect our veterans, protect older Americans, protect the Affordable Care Act, protect the right to vote, protect the peaceful transfer of power, protect our democracy, and protect a woman's freedom to make her own reproductive health care decision.”

    But Jeffries’s soft speech covered a steely message. He observed that “Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election,” adding that “[h]e’s doing a great job under difficult circumstances, and no amount of election denialism will ever change that reality.”

    Jeffries pointed out that great presidents of both parties have urged House members to “put aside partisan politics for the good of the American people,” and he noted that Americans are “understandably alarmed at the turbulence of the moment, at the chaos, the dysfunction, and the extremism that has been unleashed in this chamber, from the very beginning of this Congress.” But in what amounted to a warning to the newly empowered extremists, he continued: “But this, too, shall pass. Our country has often confronted adversity, and the good news is we always find a way to make it to the other side.”

    “We faced adversity in the 1860s, in the middle of the Civil War, when the country was literally tearing itself apart. We faced adversity in October of 1929 when the stock market collapsed, plunging us into a Great Depression. We faced adversity in December of 1941, when a foreign power unexpectedly struck, plunging us into a world war with the evil empire of Nazi Germany.

    “We faced adversity in the Deep South in the 1950s and 60s, when the country was struggling to reconcile the inherent contradictions between Jim Crow segregation and the glorious promises of the Constitution. We faced adversity on September 11th, 2001, when the Towers and the Pentagon were unexpectedly struck, killing thousands of lives in an instant.”

    And then, by placing House Republicans in this list, Jeffries tied them to the wrong side of history. “We faced adversity right here in the House of Representatives when on January 6, 2021, a violent mob of insurrectionists incited by some in this chamber overran the House floor as part of an effort to halt the peaceful transfer of power,” he said.

    And, he concluded, “[e]very time we faced adversity, the good news here in America is that we always overcome….”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 26, 2023 (Thursday)

    Today, data from the Commerce Department showed that the U.S. economy grew at an astonishing rate of 4.9% in the third quarter, and we learned that in Lewiston, Maine, a single shooter killed at least 18 people—more people than died by gun homicide in Maine in the whole of 2021—and injured at least 13 others.

    These two things are the results of two dramatically different worldviews.

    President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and the administration’s other economic advisors have resurrected the idea that the government can promote economic growth by regulating businesses, protecting workers, and investing in ordinary Americans.

    That theory reaches back to the liberal consensus of the years from 1933 to 1981, when members of both parties believed that the intricacies of the modern economy required the federal government to keep the playing field level so that a few people could not monopolize resources and power, cutting others out. In those years, Americans used the government to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, promote infrastructure, and protect civil rights. The system created what economists call the “great compression.” Wealth and income distribution became much more even, and economic inequality fell dramatically. The economy boomed.

    The modern-day Republican Party grew out of a rejection of that idea. In the 1950s and 1960s, a faction insisted that such government action was a form of socialism that stopped the economy from responding efficiently to market forces. Individual entrepreneurs should invest their money without government interference, they argued, and their investments would dramatically expand the economy. Putting money at the “supply side” rather than the “demand side” would allow everyone to prosper together, they promised: a rising tide would lift all boats. They vowed to cut taxes and regulations and to restore American individualism.

    Those same people championed the image of the American cowboy as the symbol of the country: a man who wanted nothing from the government but to be left alone to work hard and prosper, and who protected himself and his family—if he had one—with a gun.

    That image was always a myth, but it was an attractive one to white voters who had come to resent the government’s protection of civil rights, those voters who listened to politicians who assured them that the government’s actions were simply a way to direct tax dollars into the pockets of undeserving minorities.  

    The political image of cowboy individualism played into the hands of the National Rifle Association, which had organized in 1871 in New York in part to improve the marksmanship skills of American citizens who might be called on to fight in another war, and in part to promote in America the British sport of elite shooting, complete with quite hefty cash prizes in newly organized tournaments.

    By 1920, rifle shooting was a popular American sport, and the NRA worked hard to keep it respectable. In the 1930s the NRA backed federal legislation to limit concealed weapons; prevent possession by criminals, the mentally ill, and children; require all dealers to be licensed, and require background checks before delivery. The NRA backed the 1934 National Firearms Act and parts of the 1968 Gun Control Act, designed to stop what seemed to be America’s hurtle toward violence in that turbulent decade.

    But in the 1970s, a faction in the NRA forced the organization away from sports and toward opposing “gun control.” The NRA formed a political action committee (PAC) in 1975, and in 1980, for the first time, it endorsed a presidential candidate: Republican Ronald Reagan. When Reagan was elected, the NRA became a player in national politics and was awash in money from gun and ammunition manufacturers.

    By 2000 the NRA was one of the three most powerful lobbies in Washington. In 2004 the federal assault weapons ban expired, and gun companies began to sell AR-15–style semiautomatic rifles (the AR stands for “ArmaLite Rifle,” which was the name of the military weapon on which the mass-market AR-15 is based). Gun sales had been flat for years, but gun and ammunition sales took off during the administration of Democratic president Barack Obama as advocates told customers that he would confiscate their guns.

    Firearms companies played on the politics of the era, advertising their products as tools for heroic figures taking on dangerous threats in society. The firearms industry estimates that about 20 million AR-15s have been sold in the U.S., and mass shootings took off as individual rights trumped the rights of the community.

    The NRA spent more than $204 million on the 2008 election. In 2016, NRA spending surged to more than $419 million, with more than $30 million going to support Trump. Since 2020, lawsuits and a dramatic dropoff in funding have dramatically weakened the NRA, but the image of the gun-toting individualist has become so central to the Republican Party that congress members have taken to sending holiday cards showing their families brandishing assault rifles and to wearing AR-15 lapel pins on the floor of Congress.

    But now, as the nation reels from another mass shooting, there is yet more proof that Republican economic individualism from which the gun obsession developed doesn’t work as well as the idea of using the government to support the American people. Growth under the Trump administration before the Covid-19 pandemic hit was 2.5%. Trump promised he would get it to 3%, which he claimed was an astonishing rate.

    Despite the dire warnings that the economic policies of the Biden administration would cause a terrible recession, Biden and Harris rejected supply-side policies and stood firm on the traditional idea that trying to hold the economic playing field level and investing in workers and infrastructure would nurture the economy. The economy has responded exactly as they predicted, giving the U.S. strong growth for the past five quarters.

    Manufacturing has taken off, and the rate of job growth is historic. At the same time, new bargaining power has helped workers make dramatic gains: yesterday the United Auto Workers union and Ford reached a tentative agreement that includes a 25% wage increase over the next 4.5 years, along with cost-of-living adjustments that will bring the increases up to 33%. The union still has to ratify the agreement, but the UAW has called off the strike at Ford plants, suggesting it has faith the union will agree.

    A worldview that requires the government to work for the people, rather than handing power to individuals to impose their will on the majority, supports the idea of gun safety laws. Such laws are very popular: in April 2023 a Fox News poll showed that at least 80% of Americans want criminal background checks on gun buyers, better enforcement of existing gun laws, a 21-year age requirement for gun purchases, and mental health checks on gun buyers. Seventy-seven percent wanted a 30-day waiting period to buy a gun; 61% wanted to ban assault rifles and semiautomatic weapons.

    Those eager to dismantle the government have stood in the way of such measures, but the heartbreaking news out of Maine has changed at least one lawmaker’s stand. Representative Jared Golden (D-ME), who represents Maine’s conservative second district, which includes Lewiston, today apologized for his previous opposition to gun safety laws.

    “The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles like the one used by this sick perpetrator of this mass killing," Golden said. "To the families who lost loved ones and to those who have been harmed, I ask forgiveness and support as I seek to put an end to these terrible shootings.”

    Maine governor Janet Mills has personal ties to Lewiston, where she worked, met her late husband, and sent their daughters to school. “Lewiston is a special place,” she wrote today. “It is a closeknit community with a long history of hard work, of persistence, of faith, of opening its big heart to people everywhere.

    “I love this place, just as I love our whole state with my entire heart. I am so deeply saddened. This city did not deserve this terrible assault on its citizens, on its peace of mind, on its sense of security. No city does. No state. No people.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 27, 2023 (Friday)

    An article this morning jumped out at me. Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post noted that the U.S. economy “looks remarkably good.” A recent stunning jobs report, showing that the economy continues to add jobs at record rates—more than 13.9 million since President Joe Biden took office—along with yesterday’s stunning report that U.S. economic growth grew at an annual pace of 4.9% in the third quarter of this year, puts the U.S. economy at the forefront of most of the world. And inflation is back in the range that the Federal Reserve prefers—it’s at 2.4%, close to the Fed’s target of 2%.

    The U.S. is outperforming forecasts made even before the pandemic began for where the economy would be now, even as other countries are worse off.

    And yet, Rampell notes, Americans are about as negative about the economy today as they were during the Great Recession after 2008, when mortgage foreclosures were forcing people out of their homes and unemployment rested at about 9%, more than twice what it is today. In contrast, consumers give high marks to the Trump years, when average growth before the pandemic was 2.5% and the U.S. added only about 6.4 million jobs.

    There is a crucial divorce here between image and reality. Americans think our economy, currently the strongest in the world, is in poor shape. They mistakenly believe it was better under Trump.

    That profound and measurable disjunction ought to make us sit up and take notice, especially as the Biden administration continues to try to make the economy responsive to ordinary Americans and the country continues to pay little attention. Today, for example, the White House announced an effort to turn the dual problems of empty office buildings and a shortage of affordable housing into a win-win. It announced a series of actions to convert vacant commercial properties to residential buildings. Their efforts are designed to create affordable, energy-efficient housing near public transportation and jobs.  

    The importance of identifying the contrast between image and reality in today’s politics showed recently as the meticulous work of Nashville investigative reporter Phil Williams of Tennessee’s NewsChannel 5 appears to have had an important effect on the mayoral election in Franklin, Tennessee.

    While far-right Christian nationalist mayoral candidate Alderman Gabrielle Hanson promised she was “committed to restoring and upholding the wholesome values that have long been the foundation of our city’s identity,” Williams exposed to voters Hanson’s shady history. He showed that Hanson had lied about having multiracial supporters and her ties to white supremacists, highlighted her bizarre behavior, and noted her embrace of Christian nationalism.

    On Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly rejected Hanson and other far-right candidates. Hanson won just 20.6% of the vote to 79.4% for the incumbent mayor. Then, after losing, Hanson apparently had her husband drop off her computer and ID badge at City Hall, abandoning her term as alderman before its November 14th end.

    Such deep investigation stands out in an increasingly turbulent sea of disinformation. Shayan Sardarizadeh of the BBC explained to Hanaa’ Tameez of Neiman Journalism Lab that social media posters on platforms like TikTok, YouTube, or Twitter can make significant sums of money from “engagement farming.” Posting outrageous material that engages viewers pumps up a user’s brand, making them able to command high prices from marketers.  

    Sardarizadeh notes that the Israel-Hamas war is a particularly attractive situation for engagement farmers, and rumors and fake videos are flying.

    But there are plenty of opportunities for disinformation at home, too, for political purposes. In Ohio, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate is using its official government website to push what Associate Press legal and medical experts say is “false or misleading” information against the proposed constitutional amendment the state’s voters will consider in the November 7 election. Their inflammatory language warns, for example, that the measure will “legalize abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy” and permit “the dismemberment of fully conscious children,” the rhetoric of anti-abortion activists.

    Julie Carr Smyth and Christine Fernando of the Associated Press report that Republicans began their “On the Record” blog on the state Senate website after Ohio voters rejected their attempts to make it much harder to pass constitutional amendments. The Republicans bill the blog as an “online newsroom” where voters can find “the views the news excludes.” Republican Senate president Matt Huffman denied that the blog was a news service, but it sits under the “News” tab on the Senate’s website.

    “My [Republican] colleagues say that this is done because the mainstream media won’t print their stuff,” Democratic state senator Bill DeMora told the reporters. “But of course, the mainstream media won’t pick this up because it’s factually incorrect and basically lies.”

    But because the blog appears on an official government website, internet searches turn it up as a reliable source. Laura Manley, executive director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, told Smyth and Fernando: “It’s a really strategic way to make something appear to be neutral information and fact when that’s not the reality…. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

    Finally, after a two-day manhunt, law enforcement officers found Maine mass murder suspect Robert Card dead tonight from a self-inflicted gunshot. Reports suggest that Card had at least a recent history of mental illness and note that his social media accounts show a history of engagement with right-wing and Republican political content.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 28, 2023 (Saturday)

    It was an unexpectedly warm day here today, and I spent it— all of it— in a kayak on the water. Am so tired tonight that I can barely lift my arms to type. I have things to say, but they will have to wait.

    This was the scene shortly before sunset as I rounded the northern end of an island to turn toward home.

    I'll see you tomorrow.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 29, 2023 (Sunday)

    On October 29, 1929, the U.S. stock market crashed. It had been rocked five days before, when heavy trading early in the day drove it down, but leading bankers had seen the mounting crisis and moved in to stabilize the markets before the end of the day. October 24 left small investors broken but the system intact. On Monday, October 28, the market slid again, with a key industrial average dropping 49 points.

    And then, on October 29, the crisis hit. When the gong in the great hall of the New York Stock Exchange hit at ten o’clock, the market opened with heavy trading, all of it downward. When the ticker tape finally showed the day’s transactions, two and a half hours later, it documented that more than 16 million shares had changed hands and the industrial average had dropped another 43 points.

    Black Tuesday was the beginning of the end. The market continued to drop. By November the industrial average stood at half of what it had been two months before. By 1932, manufacturing output was less than it had been in 1913; foreign trade plummeted from $10 billion to $3 billion in the three years after 1929, and agricultural prices fell by more than half. By 1932 a million people in New York City were out of work; by 1933, thirteen million people—one person of every four in the labor force—were unemployed. Unable to pay rent or mortgages, people lived in shelters made of packing boxes.

    While the administration of Republican president Herbert Hoover preached that Americans could combat the Depression with thrift, morality, and individualism, voters looked carefully at the businessmen who only years before had seemed to be pillars of society and saw they had plundered ordinary Americans. The business boom of the 1920s had increased worker productivity by about 43%, but wages did not rise. Those profits, along with tax cuts and stock market dividends, meant that wealth moved upward: in 1929, 5% of the population received one third of the nation’s income.

    In 1932, nearly 58% of voters turned to Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who promised them a “New Deal”: a government that would work for everyone, not just for the wealthy and well connected.

    As soon as Roosevelt was in office, Democrats began to pass laws protecting workers’ rights, providing government jobs, regulating business and banking, and beginning to chip away at the racial segregation of the American South. New Deal policies employed more than 8.5 million people, built more than 650,000 miles of highways, built or repaired more than 120,000 bridges, and put up more than 125,000 buildings. They regulated banking and the stock market and gave workers the right to bargain collectively. They established minimum wages and maximum hours for work. They provided a basic social safety net and regulated food and drug safety.

    When he took office in 1953, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower built on this system, adding to the nation’s infrastructure with the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which provided $25 billion to build 41,000 miles of highway across the country; adding the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to the government and calling for a national healthcare system; and nominating former Republican governor of California Earl Warren as chief justice of the Supreme Court to protect civil rights. Eisenhower also insisted on the vital importance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to stop the Soviet Union from spreading communism throughout Europe.

    Eisenhower called his vision “a middle way between untrammeled freedom of the individual and the demands of the welfare of the whole Nation.” The system worked: between 1945 and 1960 the nation’s gross national product (GNP) jumped by 250%, from $200 billion to $500 billion.

    But while the vast majority of Americans of both parties liked the new system that had helped the nation to recover from the Depression and to equip the Allies to win World War II, a group of Republican businessmen and their libertarian allies at places like the National Association of Manufacturers insisted that the system proved both parties had been corrupted by communism. They inundated newspapers, radio, and magazines with the message that the government must stay out of the economy to return the nation to the policies of the 1920s.

    Their position got little traction until the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional. That decision enabled them to divide the American people by insisting that the popular new government simply redistributed tax dollars from hardworking white taxpayers to undeserving minorities.

    A promise to cut the taxes that funded social services and the business regulations they insisted hampered business growth fueled the election of Ronald Reagan for president in 1980. But by 1986 administration officials recognized that tax cuts that were driving the deficit up despite dramatic cuts to social services were so unpopular that they needed footsoldiers to back businessmen. So, Reagan backed the creation of an organization that brought together big businessmen, evangelical Christians, and social conservatives behind his agenda. “Traditional Republican business groups can provide the resources,” leader of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist explained, “but these groups can provide the votes.”

    By 1989, Norquist’s friend Ralph Reed turned evangelical Christians into a permanent political pressure group. The Christian Coalition rallied evangelicals behind the Republican Party, calling for the dismantling of the post–World War II government services and protections for civil rights—including abortion—they disliked.

    As Republicans could reliably turn out religious voters over abortion, that evangelical base has become more and more important to the Republican Party. Now it has put one of its own in the House Speaker’s chair, just two places from the presidency. On October 25, after three weeks of being unable to unite behind a speaker after extremists tossed out Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the Republican conference coalesced behind Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA) in part because he was obscure enough to have avoided scrutiny.

    Since then, his past has been unearthed, showing interviews in which he asserted that we do not live in a democracy but in a “Biblical republic.” He told a Fox News Channel interviewer that to discover his worldview, one simply had to “go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.”

    Johnson is staunchly against abortion rights and gay rights, including same-sex marriage, and says that immigration is “the true existential threat to the country.” In a 2016 sermon he warned that the 1960s and 1970s undermined “the foundations of religion and morality in the U.S.” and that attempts to address climate change, for example, are an attempt to destroy capitalism.

    Like other adherents of Christian nationalism, Johnson appears to reject the central premise of democracy: that we have a right to be treated equally before the law. And while his wife, Kelly, noted last year on a podcast that only about 4% of Americans “still adhere to a Biblical worldview,” they appear to reject the idea we have the right to a say in our government. In 2021, Johnson was a key player in the congressional attempt to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election.

    In his rejection of democracy, Johnson echoes authoritarian leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, both of whom have the loyal support of America’s far right. Such leaders claim that the multiculturalism at the heart of democracy ruins nations. The welcoming of various races and ethnicities through immigration or affirmative action undermines national purity, they say, while the equality of LGBTQ+ individuals and women undermines morality. Johnson has direct ties to these regimes: his 2018 campaign accepted money from a group of Russian nationals, and he has said he does not support additional funding for Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression.

    The rejection of democracy in favor of Christian authoritarianism at the highest levels of our government is an astonishing outcome of the attempt to prevent another Great Depression by creating a government that worked for ordinary Americans rather than a few wealthy men.

    But here we are.

    After Johnson’s election as speaker, extremist Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida spelled out what it meant for the party…and for the country: “MAGA is ascendant,” Gaetz told former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, “and if you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement, and where the power of the Republican Party truly lies, then you’re not paying attention.”


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 30, 2023 (Monday)

    After three weeks without a speaker, the House today tackled one of the key items on its agenda: providing additional funding for Israel and Ukraine. Immediately, the majority under Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) made it clear that they have every intention of pushing their extremist agenda. Despite pressure from Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), they have split funding for Israel away from the funding for Ukraine and funding for humanitarian assistance for Ukraine, Israel, and Gaza that President Biden has requested.

    They have gone further, though, to push the far right’s agenda. The House Republicans’ $14.3 billion aid package for Israel claims that it will “offset” that spending by taking $14.3 billion from funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) passed by Congress in the Inflation Reduction Act. But this “offset” is nothing of the sort: funding the IRS brings in significantly more than it costs. For each dollar spent auditing the top 1% of U.S. earners, the IRS brought in $3.18; for each dollar spent auditing the top 0.1%, it brought in $6.29.

    In September the IRS noted that it recovered $38 million in delinquent taxes from 175 high-income taxpayers within a few months and would be increasing that effort. A 2021 study showed that people whose income is in the top 1% of earners fail to report more than 20% of their earnings to the IRS.

    The House measure, providing aid for Israel only if Democrats agree to set aside Ukraine and Gaza and permit rich people to cheat on their taxes, will set up a fight with the Senate.

    Tonight, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released a statement saying the Republicans’ politicization of our national security interests is a “nonstarter. Demanding offsets for meeting core national security needs of the United States—like supporting Israel and defending Ukraine from atrocities and Russian imperialism—would be a break with the normal, bipartisan process and could have devastating implications for our safety and alliances in the years ahead.”

    She noted that there is strong bipartisan agreement that it is in our national security interest to stop the suffering of innocent people in Gaza, “help Ukraine defend its sovereignty against appalling crimes being committed by Russian forces against thousands of innocent civilians,” and invest more in border security.
    “Threatening to undermine American national security unless House Republicans can help the wealthy and big corporations cheat on their taxes—which would increase the deficit—is the definition of backwards,” she said.
    The chaos among the Republicans and the emergence of a Christian nationalist as their choice to lead the House seem to have drawn increased attention to the successes of the president.

    Today, for example, the United Auto Workers announced a tentative deal with General Motors, marking the third such agreement in the union’s six-week strike against GM, Ford, and Stellantis. The agreements include a 25% raise in base wages over 4.5 years, after years in which workers’ pay did not keep up with inflation. The agreements will also protect workers against the conversion to electric vehicles, helping unionized workers to make the transition to a green economy, and reopen certain closed plants.

    As Jeanne Whalen noted in the Washington Post, this agreement comes after United Parcel Service (UPS) workers this summer won their strongest contract in decades and 75,000 striking Kaiser healthcare workers won strong wage increases.

    Biden was the first president to join a picket line when he stood with the UAW. Today, he said: “Today's historic agreement is yet another piece of good economic news showing something I have always believed: Worker power…is critical to building an economy from the middle out and the bottom up…. We’re finally beginning to build an economy that works for working people, for the middle class, for the entire…country, including the companies.  

    “Because when we do that, the poor have a ladder up, the middle class does well, and the wealthy still do very well. We all do well.”

    As Michael Tomasky put it in The New Republic, “We have a president who takes seriously the fundamental economic fact of American life of the last 40 years, which is that trillions of dollars of wealth have been transferred from the lower and middle classes to the top 1 percent, and even to the top 0.1 percent. Moreover, it’s rivetingly clear that he thinks that it’s long past time to get that river flowing in the other direction.”

    In The Bulwark, Jill Lawrence wrote that Biden has a “surprising focus on the future” as he “moves to meet U.S. challenges that former President Donald Trump largely ignored, failed at, or made worse.” She noted Biden’s achievement of infrastructure legislation after Trump failed, and contrasted Biden’s successful CHIPS and Science Act with the trade war of the Trump years, which cost as many as 245,000 jobs and so badly hurt midwestern farmers that 90% of the proceeds from Trump’s tariffs went to bail them out.

    Biden also has looked forward by pushing and securing the Inflation Reduction Act, which invests in a transition to a green economy.

    But Lawrence’s focus was primarily on today’s sweeping executive order on artificial intelligence, an order Politico called “the most significant single effort to impose national order on a technology that has shocked many people with its rapid growth.” The administration has been working to establish responsible AI practices, recognizing the need to address discriminatory algorithms, data privacy violations, and deep fakes.

    Today, Biden signed an executive order requiring companies to share safety information about their systems before allowing them to be used, in order to make sure they don’t pose a safety or a national security risk. It orders the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to secure critical infrastructure. It will require AI-generated content to bear a watermark that clearly labels it. It will protect personal data, and Biden promised he would ask Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to stop technology companies from collecting the personal data of children and teenagers, to ban advertising directed at children, and to limit companies’ collection of personal data in general.  

    The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a technology think tank, applauded the order, saying its guidelines set “a clear course for the United States…. With this EO, the United States is demonstrating it takes AI oversight seriously.”

    Vice President Kamala Harris will attend the two-day AI Safety Summit meeting in the United Kingdom on November 1–2 as the European Union closes in on laws about artificial intelligence that would enable the E.U. to shut down services that harm society. The E.U. has been ahead of the U.S. in its regulation of the internet: in August 2023 its Digital Services Act went into effect, requiring users to agree to the use of their personal data for targeted advertising and requiring digital platforms to police the disinformation on their platforms. Most of the companies it regulates are based in the United States.


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      October 31, 2023 (Tuesday)

    Today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee about the need to fund military aid to both Ukraine and Israel, along with humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Gaza and increased U.S. border security, rather than accept the new measure from extremist House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA). Johnson wants to split off funding for Israel into its own bill and couple it with cuts to the Internal Revenue Service. Those cuts would dramatically decrease tax audits of those with the highest income and thus decrease revenue for the U.S. Treasury; they are popular with Republicans.

    Johnson and other extremist Republicans have made it clear they are not interested in continuing to help Ukraine fight off Russia’s invasion.

    Blinken and Austin got strong support not only from Senate Democrats, but also from many Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who explained why it is important for the United States to “help Ukraine win the war” in a speech at the University of Louisville where he introduced Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova.
    “If Russia prevails, there’s no question that Putin’s appetite for empire will extend to NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization], raising the threat to the U.S. transatlantic alliance and the risk of war for America. Such an outcome would demand greater permanent deployment of our military force in Europe, a much greater cost than the support we have provided to Ukraine. And of course, Russian victory would embolden Putin’s growing alliance with fellow authoritarian regimes in Iran and China.”

    “So this is not just a test for Ukraine,” McConnell said. “It’s a test for the United States and the free world.”

    But at the Senate hearing, protesters from CodePink, the group that describes itself as “a feminist grassroots organization working to end U.S. warfare and imperialism,” had a different agenda. They held up their hands, covered in red paint, with the word “GAZA” written on their forearms, repeatedly interrupting Blinken and calling for an end to funding for Israel, citing what the organization calls “Israel's genocide of Palestine.”

    Over the weekend, as Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets into Israel and skirmish with Israeli troops, Israel began to push into northern Gaza in a ground operation U.S. officials said had been changed from the originally planned massive Israeli ground offensive to “surgical” strikes that would hit high-value Hamas targets but spare Palestinian civilians.

    That advance was accompanied by even fiercer airstrikes than previous ones, and today an attack on a Palestinian refugee camp appears to have caused significant civilian loss. The Israeli military said the attack “eliminated many terrorists and destroyed terror infrastructure,” with underground Hamas installations collapsing and taking adjacent buildings down with them.

    From the time of Hamas’s initial strike against Israel on October 7, the Biden administration has been keen to stop the crisis from spreading. President Joe Biden was firm in his repeated declarations that the U.S would stand firmly behind Israel, warning “any country, any organization, anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation, I have one word: Don’t.  Don’t.”

    To deter militants backed by Iran, the U.S. moved two American aircraft carrier strike groups into the region. After repeated drone strikes against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, on Wednesday, October 25, Biden warned Iran that the U.S. would respond if Iran continued to move against U.S. troops. On October 27 the U.S. carried out airstrikes against munitions stockpiles stored at two facilities in eastern Syria linked to militants backed by Iran. Secretary of Defense Austin emphasized that the U.S. actions were “precision self-defense strikes” and were separate from the conflict in Gaza.

    Drone attacks on U.S. troops in the area have increased, and the Institute for the Study of War assessed today that Iranian-backed militants, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, “are creating the expectation in the information environment that Hezbollah will escalate against Israel on or around November 3.” The U.S. today announced it is sending 300 additional troops to U.S. Central Command, whose responsibility includes the Middle East, Central Asia and parts of South Asia, to protect U.S. troops from drone attacks by Iran-backed militant groups. Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder told reporters the troops are not going to Israel.

    In addition to trying to hold off Iran from expanding the conflict, the U.S. has been trying to support Israel’s right to respond while also demanding that Israel follow the rules of war. The U.S. has firmly condemned the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians as “an act of sheer evil.” That evil included the taking of hostages—which is a war crime—including U.S. citizens.

    But, all along, the administration has warned Israel that it must not violate international law in its retaliation for the attack. On October 18, in a remarkable admission, Biden advised Israelis not to be consumed by their rage. “After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. And while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.”

    Responding to the October 7 massacre, he said, “requires being deliberate. It requires asking very hard questions. It requires clarity about the objectives and an honest assessment about whether the path you are on will achieve those objectives.”

    Despite the administration's warnings, while international eyes are on Gaza, according to the United Nations, settlers in the West Bank encouraged by the policies of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have killed at least 115 Palestinians, injured more than 2,000 more, and forcibly displaced almost 1,000. The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross are concerned that Israel’s pursuit of Hamas militants has led it to commit war crimes of its own, enacting collective punishment on the civilians of Gaza by denying them food, water, and electricity as well as instructing them to leave their homes, displacing well over a million people.

    While the U.S. says it does not trust the numbers of casualties asserted by Hamas, it believes from other sources that there have been “many thousands of civilian deaths in Gaza thus far in the conflict…. Way too many.” Today the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, John Kirby, reminded reporters: “We aren’t on the ground fighting in this war. There’s no intent to do that…. [T]hese are Israeli military operations. They get to decide what their aims and strategy are. They get to decide what their tactics are. They get to decide how they’re going to decide to go after Hamas.

    “We’re doing everything we can to support them—including providing our perspectives, including asking them hard questions about their aims and their strategy and—the kind of questions we’d ask ourselves.”

    The administration appears to be trying to defend Israel’s right to self-defense in the face of a massacre that took the lives of 1,400 Israelis, while also trying to recover the hostages, get humanitarian aid into Gaza, and prevent U.S. ally Israel from committing war crimes in retaliation for the attack. It is also insisting there must be a long-term plan for Israel and the Palestinians. To that end, it is throwing its weight behind the long-neglected two-state solution.

    On October 27, U.S. Representative to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield echoed Biden’s statement that “there is no going back to the status quo as it stood on October 6th. We must not go back to the status quo where Hamas terrorizes Israel and uses Palestinian civilians as human shields,” she said. “And we must not go back to the status quo where extremist settlers can attack and terrorize Palestinians in the West Bank. The status quo is untenable and it is unacceptable.”

    “[W]hen this crisis is over,” she said, “there has to be a vision of what comes next. In our view, that vision must be centered around a two-state solution. Getting there will require concerted efforts by all of us—Israelis, Palestinians, regional partners, and global leaders—to put us on a path for peace. To integrate Israel with the region, while insisting that the aspirations of the Palestinian people be part of a more hopeful future.”

    The current crisis might have made that two-state solution more possible than it has been for a generation. Neither Hamas nor Netanyahu’s government supports a two-state solution, but other leaders in the region, including Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, say they do.

    Hamas has little support outside of Iran, and up to 80% of Israelis blame Prime Minister Netanyahu for the October 7 attack. His leadership of a right-wing coalition has shielded him from corruption charges even as his attempts to gain more control over Israeli society sparked the largest protests in Israeli history, and there is no doubt the attack and his response to it have weakened him dramatically. At a news conference yesterday, a reporter asked if he would resign.

    The recent peace talks in Egypt excluded Hamas, Iran, and Israel. Instead, the organizers invited Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority that oversees the West Bank. President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan have been meeting with officials from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. On Friday, Blinken will travel back to Israel to meet with officials there, after which he will make other stops in the region.

    [A reminder: these posts are an attempt to keep a record of events that are important to the U.S. and how officials and other actors respond to them. It is not advocacy. We will assume that inflammatory comments come from trolls, and ban the account.]


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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      November 1, 2023 (Wednesday)

    A follow-up to some stories I've mentioned:

    Egypt has opened its border crossing into Gaza, permitting ambulances to carry 76 badly injured Palestinians to Egypt, while 335 people who hold foreign passports were able to cross.

    Jonathan Lemire, Nahal Toosi, and Alexander Ward of Politico reported today that the White House suspects Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanhayu’s days in office are numbered.

    Here at home, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has scored the House Republicans’ bill to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel and to “offset” that spending with $14.3 billion in cuts to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As those of us who have followed the economics of adequately funding the IRS predicted, the CBO found that the cuts to the IRS would cost far more than they save. As it is currently constructed, the bill would add $26.8 billion to the national budget deficit.

    New House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) tried to spin this information in a way that can only be described as dishonest: “Only in Washington when you cut spending do they call it an increase in the deficit,” he said.

    Johnson rejects the separation of church and state in our government, saying that the framers’ idea “clearly did not mean…to keep religion from influencing issues of civil government. To the contrary, it was meant to keep the federal government from impeding the religious practice of citizens. The Founders wanted to protect the church from an encroaching state, not the other way around.”

    Actually, James Madison of Virginia, the key thinker behind the Constitution, had quite a lot to say about why the government and religion must be kept apart.

    In 1772, when he was 21, Madison watched as Virginia arrested itinerant preachers for attacking the established church in the state. He was no foe of religion, but by the next year, he had begun to question whether established religion, which was common in the colonies, was good for society. By 1776, many of his broad-thinking neighbors had come to believe that society should “tolerate” different religious practices; he had moved past tolerance to the belief that men had a right of conscience.

    In that year, he was instrumental in putting Section 16 into the Virginia Declaration of Rights, on which our own Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—would be based. It reads: “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.”

    In 1785, in a “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments,” Madison explained that what was at stake was not just religion, but also representative government itself. The establishment of one religion over others attacked a fundamental human right—an unalienable right—of conscience. If lawmakers could destroy the right of freedom of conscience, they could destroy all other unalienable rights. Those in charge of government could throw representative government out the window and make themselves tyrants.

    Madison believed that a variety of religious sects would balance each other out, keeping the new nation free of the religious violence of Europe. He drew on that vision explicitly when he envisioned a new political system, expecting that a variety of political expressions would protect the new government. In Federalist #51, he said: “In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.”

    In order to make sure men had the right of conscience, the First Amendment to the Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

    In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson called this amendment “a wall of separation between Church & State.” In a letter of January 1, 1802, he explained to a group of Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut, how that principle made him refuse to call for national religious days of fasting and thanksgiving in his role as head of the government.  

    Like Madison, he maintained that “religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship.” “[T]he legitimate powers of government reach actions only,” he wrote, “[and] not [religious] opinions.”

    “[T]hat act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’” he wrote, built “a wall of separation between Church & State." It prevented him even from such religious practices as declaring a day of fasting in times of trouble, or thanksgiving in times of triumph.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      The Future Is Unwritten: With Heather Cox Richardson
    The Michael Steele Podcast
    Duration: 1:17:37
    Published: Wed, 01 Nov 2023 18:48:12 +0000
    Episode: https://www.spreaker.com/user/11313090/msp-heathercoxrichardson

    Media: https://dts.podtrac.com/redirect.mp3/api.spreaker.com/download/episode/57474889/msp_heathercoxrichardson.mp3

    Podcast: https://www.podcastrepublic.net/podcast/1412905534

    Michael speaks with historian Heather Cox Richardson about her new book, "Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America." The pair discuss Lincoln Republicanism, how the culture wars of the '90s ...

    Subscribe to this podcast: https://www.spreaker.com/show/3668522/episodes/feed

    Sent from Podcast Republic 23.10.28R


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      November 2, 2023 (Thursday)

    In a speech yesterday in Northfield, Minnesota, President Joe Biden explained his economic vision to rural Americans. “Over the past 40 years or so, we’ve had a practice in America—an economic practice called trickle-down economics, and it hit rural America especially hard,” he said. “It hollowed out Main Street, telling farmers the only path to success was to get big or get out.”

    At the same time, he said, “[t]ax cuts for big corporations encouraged companies to grow bigger and bigger, move jobs and production overseas for cheaper labor, and undercut local small businesses. Meat-producing companies and the retail grocery chains consolidated, leaving farmers [and] ranchers with few choices about where to sell their products, reducing their bargaining power. Corporations that sell seed, fertilizer, and even farm equipment used their outsized market power to change farmers and charge them and ranchers unfair prices.”

    Biden noted that the U.S. has lost more than 400,000 family farms in the past 40 years, an area of more than 140 million acres of farmland, equivalent to an area the size of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota combined. Family farms have failed, and as they did so, small businesses, hospitals, schools, and communities also suffered.

    Young people feel they have no choice but to leave home “in search of good-paying jobs and a chance at the American Dream.”

    Biden explained that his plan to invest in America would create new and better markets and new income streams to help rural areas thrive. He noted that $20 billion of the Inflation Reduction Act will go to helping farmers and ranchers adjust to climate change by changing cover crops and managing nutrients and grazing, while urging farmers to diversify from single crops and sell in local markets.

    Biden emphasized that the administration is promoting competition in agricultural markets, noting that currently just four big corporations control more than half the market in beef, pork, and poultry. If just one of their processing plants goes offline, it can cause massive supply chain disruptions (as the closing of a baby formula plant did in 2022). “[T]here’s something wrong,” he said, “when just 7% of the American farms get nearly 90% of the farm income.”

    In addition to the existing national investments in power grids and broadband that will help rural communities, Biden announced $1 billion to fix aging rural infrastructure systems like electricity, water, and waste water systems that haven’t been updated in decades; $2 billion to help farmers fight climate change; $145 million for clean energy technologies like solar panels that will help lower electric bills; and $274 million for rural high-speed internet expansion.

    The administration’s vision for rural America appears to be part of a larger vision for restoring competition to the U.S. economy and thus is closely tied to the administration’s push to break up monopolies. In July 2021, Biden promised to interpret antitrust laws in the way they had been understood traditionally, not as the U.S. government began to interpret them in the 1980s. Then, following the argument advanced by the solicitor general of the United States at the time, Robert Bork, the government concluded that economic consolidation was fine so long as it promoted economic efficiencies that, at least in the short term, cut costs for consumers.

    Biden vowed to return to the traditional understanding of antitrust principles championed by presidents all the way back to Theodore Roosevelt at the turn of the last century, arguing that protecting economic competition protects workers, promotes innovation, and keeps consumer prices down. To that, the coronavirus pandemic added an awareness of the need to protect supply chains.

    “Bidenomics is just another way of saying ‘the American Dream,’” Biden said. “Forty years ago, trickle-down economics limited the dream to those at the top. But I believe every American willing to work hard should be able to get a job, no matter where they live—in the heartland, in small towns—to raise their kids on a good paycheck and keep their roots where they grew up.”

    In contrast to Biden’s outreach to farmers, House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) is facing a dilemma over the nation’s next farm bill, which must be passed by the end of the year. According to Clark Merrefield of The Journalist’s Resource, Congress usually debates and renews the farm bill every five years, and the last one passed in 2018.

    Farm bills include price support for farm products, especially corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, peanuts, dairy, and sugar. It also includes crop insurance, conservation programs, and a wide variety of other agricultural programs, making the farm bill hugely popular in rural areas that focus on farming.

    Also included in the measure are nutritional programs for low-income Americans, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. SNAP serves 41 million low-income Americans, but as a member of the far-right Republican Study Committee, Johnson called for cutting SNAP benefits. Now his far-right colleagues are echoing his position, saying that the need to renew the farm bill is a great opportunity to make significant cuts to SNAP, especially since the farm bill is expected to bear a price tag of more than $1 trillion for the first time in our history.

    “I can’t imagine the Mike Johnson that we know would pass up the opportunity to secure as many conservative wins as possible in this farm bill,” a Republican aide told Meredith Lee Hill of Politico, “[a]nd that means serious SNAP reforms.”

    But even some Republicans—primarily those who hail from agricultural states—object to loading the farm bill up with the poison pill of SNAP cuts, knowing such a tactic would repel Democrats, whose votes will be necessary to pass the measure as far-right Republicans balk.

    It will take a deft hand to get the measure through Congress, and its failure at Johnson’s hands will infuriate hard-hit rural areas. It is one more thing to add to the new speaker’s to-do list, as the deadline for funding the government is looming. The continuing resolution funding the government at 2023 levels, the measure that cost Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) his speakership, expires in just over two weeks, on November 17.

    Johnson’s willingness to load bills with poison pills that his conference likes showed today in the House’s passage of Republicans’ aid bill for Israel—Ukraine aid had been cut away—along with dramatic cuts to funding the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a provision that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office warned would add to the deficit rather than reducing it. Knowing that the measure will not pass the Senate, a number of Democrats voted for it, likely to avoid attacks from conservative opponents.

    Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says the Senate won’t even take up the House bill. Instead, the Senate continues to work on its own strongly bipartisan bill that ties together aid to Israel and Ukraine.

    As Kate Riga of Talking Points Memo put it, if the Senate continues to work in this bipartisan way, we will continue to see the same pattern we’ve seen throughout this Congress: “Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans and House Democrats all supporting more or less the same thing, with a chunk of House Republicans out on a branch alone.”

    After an angry fight last night over Senator Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) holds on military promotions, in which Republican senators joined Democrats in confronting him, the Senate today confirmed General David Allvin to be Air Force chief of staff and Admiral Lisa Franchetti as chief of naval operations, by votes of 95 to 1. Franchetti is the first woman to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    Wednesday’s fight appears to have been prompted by the hospitalization of acting Marines Commandant General Eric Smith after an apparent heart attack. Smith was holding down two high-level positions at once owing to Tuberville’s holds, and he had warned his schedule was “not sustainable.” Although the Pentagon says Tuberville is endangering national security, Tuberville insists that his hold on almost 400 military promotions is not hurting the military.

    The new additions mean there are no vacancies on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the first time since July.


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    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
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  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      November 3, 2023 (Friday)

    Today, Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT), who was former president Trump’s Interior Secretary until he left under accusations of misconduct, introduced a bill to ban Palestinians from the United States and to revoke any visas issued to Palestinians since October 1 of this year. Although the U.S. has resettled only about 2,000 Palestinians in the last 20 years, ten other far-right members of the House signed onto Zinke’s bill, which draws no distinction between Hamas and Palestinian civilians.

    This blanket attack on a vulnerable population echoes Trump’s travel ban of January 27, 2017, just a week after he took office. Executive Order 13769 stopped travel from primarily Muslim countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen—for ninety days. The list of countries appeared random—Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, countries from which terrorists have sometimes come directly to the U.S., weren’t on the list—and appeared to fulfill a campaign promise and assert a new view of executive power.

    Insisting that immigrants endanger the country is a key tactic of authoritarians. Excluding them is a central principle of those eager to tear down democracy: they insist that immigration destroys a nation’s traditions and undermines native-born Americans. With tensions in the nation mounting over the crisis in the Middle East, this measure, introduced now with inflammatory language, seems designed to whip up violence.

    Representative Greg Landsman (D-OH) called out his Republican colleagues on social media. “Un-American and definitely NOT in the Bible, [Speaker Johnson],” he wrote. “You going to tell them to pull this bill?”

    But, far from trying to work across the aisle, Johnson has been throwing red meat to his base. In the last two days, for example, the House has voted to slash 39% of the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and 13% of the budget of the National Park Service. It voted to require the Biden administration to advance oil drilling off the Alaska coast. It has voted on reducing the salary of the EPA administrator, the director of the Bureau of Land Management, and the Secretary of the Interior to $1 each.

    Yesterday, Johnson told reporters he considers extremists Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) close friends and said “I don’t disagree with them on many issues and principles.”

    To direct his communications team, Johnson has tapped Raj Shah, a former executive from the Fox News Corporation, who was a key player in promoting the lie that Trump won the 2020 presidential election. As the head of the “Brand Protection Unit,” Shah demanded that the Fox News Channel continue to lie to viewers who would leave the station if it told the truth. Johnson has hired Shah to be his deputy chief of staff for communications and, according to Alex Isenstadt of Politico, “help run messaging for House Republicans.”

    The extremists are doubling down on Trump and his election lies even as his allies are admitting in court that they are, indeed, lies. Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows is in trouble with the publisher of his memoir after admitting that under oath that the election had been fair. The publisher is suing him for millions in damages for basing his book on the idea that the election had been stolen and representing that “all statements contained in the Work are true.”

    The publisher says it has pulled the book off the market.

    House extremists continue to back Trump even as he is openly calling for an authoritarian second term. In September, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley had to take “appropriate measures” for his own security after Trump accused him of disloyalty to him, personally, and suggested that in the past, such “treason” would have been punished with death.

    On Wednesday, Jonathan Swan, Charlie Savage, and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times reported that Trump was frustrated in his first term by lawyers who refused to go along with his wishes, trying to stay within the law, so Trump's allies are making lists of lawyers they believe would be “more aggressive” on issues of immigration, taking over the Department of Justice, and overturning elections.

    They are looking, they say, for “a different type of lawyer” than those supported by the right-wing Federalist Society, one “willing to endure the personal and professional risks of association with Mr. Trump” and “to use theories that more establishment lawyers would reject to advance his cause.”

    John Mitnick, who served in Trump’s first term, told the reporters that “no qualified attorneys with integrity will have any desire to serve as political appointees” in a second Trump term. Instead, the lawyers in a second term would be “opportunists who will rubber-stamp whatever Trump and his senior White House staff want to do.”

    Trump has also made it clear he and his allies want to gut the nonpartisan civil service and fill tens of thousands of government positions with his own loyalists. Led by Russell Vought, who served as Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, Trump’s allies believe that agencies like the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission should not be independent but should push the president’s agenda.

    This week, Trump vowed to take over higher education too. In a campaign video, he promised to tax private universities with large endowments to fund a new institution called “American Academy.” The school, which would be online only, would award free degrees and funnel students into jobs with the U.S. government and federal contractors.

    “We spend more money on higher education than any other country, and yet they’re turning our students into communists and terrorists and sympathizers of many, many different dimensions,” Trump said. “We can’t let this happen.” In his university, “wokeness or jihadism” would not be allowed, he said.

    In admirable understatement, Politico’s Meridith McGraw and Michael Stratford noted: “Using the federal government to create an entirely new educational institution aimed at competing with the thousands of existing schools would drastically reshape American higher education.”

    Trump has made no secret of his future plans for the United States of America.

    Meanwhile, Republicans appear determined to push their agenda over the wishes of voters. In Ohio, where voters on Tuesday will decide whether to amend the state constitution to make it a constitutional right to “make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions,” Republicans first tried to make it harder to amend the state constitution, and then, when voters rejected that attempt, the Republican-dominated state senate began to use an official government website to spread narratives about the constitutional amendment that legal and medical experts called false or misleading.

    Adding reproductive health protections to the state constitution is popular, but In an unusual move, the Republican secretary of state, Frank LaRose, quietly purged more than 26,000 voters from the rolls in late September. LaRose is a staunch opponent of the constitutional amendment and is himself running for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

    In Virginia, where Republicans are hoping to take control of the state legislature to pass new abortion restrictions as well as the rest of Republican governor Glenn Youngkin’s agenda, a study by the Democratic Party of Virginia shows that officials are flagging the mail-in ballots of non-white voters for rejection much more frequently than those of white voters. As of today, 4.82% of ballots cast by Black voters have gotten flagged, while only 2.79% of the ballots of white voters have been flagged.

    In Richmond, The Guardian’s Sam Levine reported, city officials flagged more than 11% of ballots returned by Black voters but only about 5.5% of ballots cast by white voters. After the ballots are fixed, or cured, the rate of rejection for Black voters remains more than twice as high as that of white voters.

    Virginia officials also reported last week that they had accidentally removed more than 3,400 eligible voters from the rolls.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
  • brianluxbrianlux Moving through All Kinds of Terrain. Posts: 40,156
    Another excellent and revealing letter from Heather.  What the MAGA House is doing to wreck this county and the planet leaving my stomach churning.  We are so screwed.
    "I believe in the mystery, and I don't want to take it any further than that. Maybe what I mean by that is love."
    -John Densmore

  • mickeyratmickeyrat up my ass, like Chadwick was up his Posts: 33,698
      November 4, 2023 (Saturday)

    October, as usual, was a month of contradictions.

    I love this month, with its quiet, crisp air, apples, and a return to hunkering down around a fire in the woodstove. But October is also traditionally a month of drama: economic crashes as accountants take a closer look at their books after taking the summer off; political surprises as politicos jockey for advantage before November elections.

    For me, traveling the country this October seemed like coming home as I met so many people who felt like family and as you kept the new book on the top of bestseller lists. I did not see that coming, and I thank you all, profoundly.

    But the month was also one of tragedy, both at home and around the world.

    I could not work on the day after the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, and finally quit trying and drove uptown. On my way back home, I passed by a pond and caught this scene out of the corner of my eye. I swung back around to capture it.

    It strikes me that this was October 2023: calm and chaos.

    Taking the night off. Will see you tomorrow.


    Not today Sir, Probably not tomorrow.............................................. bayfront arena st. pete '94
    you're finally here and I'm a mess................................................... nationwide arena columbus '10
    memories like fingerprints are slowly raising.................................... first niagara center buffalo '13
    another man ..... moved by sleight of hand...................................... joe louis arena detroit '14
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