Lazy Caturday Reads

Pierre Bonnard and his cat

Artist Pierre Bonnard and his cat

Happy Caturday!!

Today’s top story is the Democrats’ historic climate/health-care/tax bill.

The bill can be passed through reconciliation, after the Senate parliamentarian approved most of the bill’s provisions. One portion of the Medicare drug portion of the bill was disallowed.

The Guardian: Senate Democrats given green light to vote on $430bn climate and tax bill.

US Senate Democrats on Saturday were set to push ahead on a bill that would address key elements of President Joe Biden’s agenda, tackling climate change, lowering the cost of energy and senior citizens’ drugs and forcing the wealthy to pay more taxes.

A Senate rulemaker determined that the lion’s share of the $430bn bill could be passed with only a simple majority, bypassing a filibuster rule requiring 60 votes in the 100-seat chamber to advance most legislation and enabling Democrats to pass it over Republican objections, majority leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement….

“Democrats have received extremely good news,” Schumer said in the statement. “Medicare will finally be allowed to negotiate drug prices … This is a major victory for the American people.“ [….]

There are three main parts to the bill: a 15% minimum tax on corporations, tougher IRS enforcement and a new excise tax on stock buybacks. The legislation has $430 billion in new spending along with raising more than $740 billion in new revenues.

Beside billions of dollars to encourage the production and purchase of more electric vehicles and foster clean energy, the bill would set $4 billion in new federal drought relief funds. The latter is a move that could help the re-election campaigns of Democratic Senators Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada and Mark Kelly in Arizona….

One provision cut from the bill would have forced drug companies to refund money to both government and private health plans if drug prices rise more quickly than inflation. The Senate arbiter, known as the parliamentarian, ruled that measure could not apply to private industry.

Frida Kahlo's cat feeling shunned as she cuddles a monkey

Frida Kahlo’s cat feeling shunned as she cuddles a monkey

Before they can vote on the bill, Democrats will have to endure a “vote-a-rama,” in which Republicans will try to weaken the bill with votes on proposed amendments. They may also face a fight with good old Bernie Sanders.

USA Today: Senate preps for grueling weekend ‘vote-a-rama’ as Democrats push sweeping climate, health care bill.

In a vote-a-rama, senators can offer up an unlimited amount of amendments to a bill but the process is expedited.

There is only one minute allocated for debate, equally divided between both sides. Then, senators are given 10 minutes to vote. This process repeats for every single amendment.

In a vote-a-rama, senators can offer up an unlimited amount of amendments to a bill but the process is expedited.

There is only one minute allocated for debate, equally divided between both sides. Then, senators are given 10 minutes to vote. This process repeats for every single amendment.

The last time the Senate held a vote-a-rama was when it adopted a budget resolution for fiscal year 2022 last August. Senators offered up 43 amendments for a vote, leading to a session that lasted around 14 hours.  

What’s the point of this nonsense?

Most amendments are expected to come from Republicans, who are furious over the deal which was negotiated without their input.

Republican-proposed amendments are expected to fail. But the vote-a-rama will allow Republicans to make Democrats vote on tough issues that could be used for ads on the campaign trail this fall.

The deal also incited the anger of some on the left, who have criticized the bill’s investment in new fossil fuel development – likely due to the importance natural gas and coal are to the economy of Manchin’s home state.

Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on the Senate floor Wednesday,urged lawmakers “to do everything possible to take on the greed of the fossil fuel industry,” and promised to offer an amendment nixing fossil fuel investments in the bill.

Sanders’ amendment is expected to fail as the bill is contingent on Manchin’s support.

Senate rules are truly insane.

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White with her kitten in 1944

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White with her kitten in 1944

John Nichols at The Nation: Schumer’s Inflation Reduction Act Includes a Smart Tax on Corporations.

The Inflation Reduction Act that is poised for votes in the US Senate is far from perfect. A scaled-down version of the ambitious plans that President Joe Biden and Senate Budget Committee chair Bernie Sanders framed last summer as the “Build Back Better” agenda, it’s the latest step in the series of compromises that’s been referred to as “Build Back Smaller.”

Yet the $740 billion budget reconciliation package  worked out by Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has ambitions that ought not be underestimated—especially as it arrives at a point when many Democrats had given up hope on getting another omnibus bill enacted before the November midterm elections. As it stands now, according to Politico, the measure “would spend $369 billion on energy and climate change, extend Obamacare subsidies through 2024, direct Medicare to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs and send an estimated $300 billion to deficit reduction. It would be funded, in part, by a 15 percent corporate minimum tax on big companies and increased IRS enforcement.”

And it looks as if it will include a 1 percent excise tax on stock buybacks, which is actually a very big deal. The tax, which would raise $73 billion for climate and health care initiatives, cracks down on some of the ugliest abuses by multinational corporations.

Read all the details at The Nation.

Also in the news: the fight for women’s personhood as Republicans try to turn women into broodmares.

The Washington Post: Indiana passes near-total abortion ban, the first state to do so post-Roe.

Indiana became the first state in the country after the fall of Roe v. Wade to pass sweeping limits on abortion access, after Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed into law Friday a bill that constitutes a near-total ban 0n the procedure.

The Republican-dominated state Senate approved the legislation 28-19 on Friday in a vote that came just hours after it passed Indiana’s lower chamber. The bill, which will go into effect Sept. 15, allows abortion only in cases of rape, incest, lethal fetal abnormality or when the procedure is necessary to prevent severe health risks or death.

Paul Klee with cat Bimbo

Paul Klee with his cat Bimbo

Supporters of abortion rights crowded into the corridors of the Indiana Statehouse throughout the day as lawmakers cast their votes, some holding signs that read “You can only ban safe abortions” and “Abortion is health care.” Moments after the vote, some protesters hugged and others stood stunned before the crowd broke out into chants of “We will not stop.”c

In a statement released after signing the bill, Holcomb said he had “stated clearly” following the overturn of Roe that he would be willing to support antiabortion legislation. He also highlighted the “carefully negotiated” exceptions in the law, which he said address “some of the unthinkable circumstances a woman or unborn child might face.”

Note he said “some of.” There are bound to be many “unthinkable circumstances” that Indiana state legislators are ignorant about.

The vote followed days of testimony from citizens and a debate that grew heated at times. “Sir, I am not a murderer,” state Rep. Renee Pack (D) said in the chamber after state Rep. John Jacob (R), a staunch abortion opponent who wanted exceptions for rape removed, described the procedure as murder.

Abortion rights organizations quickly rebuked Friday’s decision. Alexis McGill Johnson, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the vote “was cruel and will prove devastating for pregnant people and their families in Indiana and across the whole region.” “Hoosiers didn’t want this,” Johnson said.

In a statement, antiabortion group Indiana Right to Life opposed the exceptions and said the new law did not go far enough in cutting abortion access.

Dana Goldstein at The New York Times writes about what some anti-abortion fanatics are offering as a cruel “solution” to unwanted pregnancies: Drop Box for Babies: Conservatives Promote a Way to Give Up Newborns Anonymously.

The Safe Haven Baby Box at a firehouse in Carmel, Ind., looked like a library book drop. It had been available for three years for anyone who wanted to surrender a baby anonymously.

Ai Weiwei with Lai Lai — one of his 40 cats

Ai Weiwei with Lai Lai — one of his 40 cats

No one had ever used it, though, until early April. When its alarm went off, Victor Andres, a firefighter, opened the box and found, to his disbelief, a newborn boy wrapped in towels.

The discovery made the local TV news, which praised the courage of the mother, calling it “a time for celebration.” Later that month, Mr. Andres pulled another newborn, a girl, from the box. In May, a third baby appeared. By summer, three more infants were left at baby box locations throughout the state.

The baby boxes are part of the safe haven movement, which has long been closely tied to anti-abortion activism. Safe havens offer desperate mothers a way to surrender their newborns anonymously for adoption, and, advocates say, avoid hurting, abandoning or even killing them. The havens can be boxes, which allow parents to avoid speaking to anyone or even being seen when surrendering their babies. More traditionally, the havens are locations such as hospitals and fire stations, where staff members are trained to accept a face-to-face handoff from a parent in crisis.

So a child will never know who her parents are unless they can find a way to locate them through on-line DNA matching.

But for many experts in adoption and women’s health, safe havens are hardly a panacea.

To them, a safe haven surrender is a sign that a woman fell through the cracks of existing systems. They may have concealed their pregnancies and given birth without prenatal care, or they may suffer from domestic violence, drug addiction, homelessness or mental illness.

The adoptions themselves could also be problematic, with women potentially unaware that they are terminating parental rights, and children left with little information about their origins.

Read more at the NYT.

From the great Jane Mayer at The New Yorker: State Legislatures Are Torching Democracy.

As the Supreme Court anticipated when it overturned Roe v. Wade, the battle over abortion rights is now being waged state by state. Nowhere is the fight more intense than in Ohio, which has long been considered a national bellwether. The state helped secure the Presidential victories of Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, then went for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. Its residents tend to be politically moderate, and polls consistently show that a majority of Ohio voters support legal access to abortion, particularly for victims of rape and incest. Yet, as the recent ordeal of a pregnant ten-year-old rape victim has illustrated, Ohio’s state legislature has become radically out of synch with its constituents. In June, the state’s General Assembly instituted an abortion ban so extreme that the girl was forced to travel to Indiana to terminate her pregnancy. In early July, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the Indiana obstetrician who treated the child, told me that she had a message for Ohio’s legislature: “This is your fault!”

Gustav Klimt with his cat Katz

Gustav Klimt with his cat Katz

Longtime Ohio politicians have been shocked by the state’s transformation into a center of extremist legislation, not just on abortion but on such divisive issues as guns and transgender rights. Ted Strickland, a Democrat who served as governor between 2007 and 2011, told me, “The legislature is as barbaric, primitive, and Neanderthal as any in the country. It’s really troubling.” When he was governor, he recalled, the two parties worked reasonably well together, but politics in Ohio “has changed.” The story is similar in several other states with reputations for being moderate, such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania: their legislatures have also begun proposing laws so far to the right that they could never be passed in the U.S. Congress.

Ohio’s law prohibits abortion after six weeks—or even earlier, if doctors can detect fetal cardiac activity—unless the mother is at risk of death or serious permanent injury. Dr. Bernard noted that the bill’s opponents had warned about the proposed restrictions’ potential effect on underage rape victims. “It was literally a hypothetical that was discussed,” she told me. Indeed, at a hearing on April 27th, a Democrat in the Ohio House, Richard Brown, declared that if a thirteen-year-old girl “was raped by a serial rapist . . . this bill would require this thirteen-year-old to carry this felon’s fetus.”

It’s a long read, so please check it out at The New Yorker if you’re interested.

Alex Jones is screwed and I couldn’t be happier.

The Washington Post: Alex Jones ordered to pay $45.2 million more in punitive damages to Sandy Hook parents.

A Texas jury has determined Infowars host Alex Jones must pay the parents of a Sandy Hook school shooting victim $45.2 million in punitive damages. The Friday decision comes a day after the same jury awarded the plaintiffs $4.1 million in compensatory damages, culminating the final phase of a defamation case first brought in 2018 over Jones’s repeated false claims that the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history was a hoax.

Jones was not in court as the jury read the unanimous verdict.

The damages phase of the trial that ended Friday marks the first time Jones, an influential purveyor of far-right conspiracy theories, has faced financial repercussions in court for the outlandish lies he told via his Infowars broadcast about the shooting. Since the early days that followed the 2012 shooting that killed 26 people, including 20 young children, Jones said on his program that “no one died” at Sandy Hook and that the attack was a ruse “staged” by gun-control advocates to manufacture anti-gun sentiment.

In the case brought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, the damages hint at what Jones could face in the months ahead in his additional Sandy Hook defamation cases in Texas and Connecticut.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Suzanne Valadon with her cat

Suzanne Valadon with her cat

Shannon Bond at NPR: How Alex Jones helped mainstream conspiracy theories become part of American life.

Name a traumatic news event in recent decades, and it’s almost certain Alex Jones has claimed it didn’t happen — or not the way you think it did.

The Boston Marathon bombing in 2013? Staged by the FBI.

The shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords in 2011? A government mind control operation.

The September 11th terrorist attacks? An inside job.

All lies.

The conspiracy theorist and radio host was confronted with his track record of fabulism this week in an Austin, Texas, courtroom. He was on trial to determine how much he should pay for defaming the parents of a first grader killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, after years of falsely claiming that no children died and the families were “crisis actors” in a “giant hoax” designed to take away guns….

Jones got his start in public access broadcasting in Austin, Texas, in the 1990s. From his early days on air, he spouted conspiracy theories about the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

When his wild claims got him fired from a local radio station, he founded Infowars in 1999 and started broadcasting over the internet and in radio syndication.

After the September 11th attacks, Jones surged to fame as a “truther,” claiming the Bush administration was behind the tragedy.

As his audience grew, Jones popularized a vocabulary for pernicious doubt: not just that officials and media are hiding the truth, but that tragic events are being engineered for nefarious purposes.

“He’s at least a catalyst of those prevailing narratives that follow almost every newsworthy tragedy, whether it’s a mass shooting or otherwise,” said Sara Aniano, a disinformation researcher at the Anti-Defamation League.

Read more or listen at NPR.

That’s it for me today. I hope you’re all having a great weekend!


12 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Authoritarian governor Ron DeSantis suspended an elected Florida state attorney who said he would not enforced DeSantis’ abortion restrictions.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Tampa Bay Times: DeSantis: You’re not king of Florida | Editorial

      Gov. Ron DeSantis’ suspension Thursday of Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren was politically craven, legally suspect, suspiciously timed and odorously soaked in autocracy, partisanship and bad faith — in other words, completely in keeping with this governor’s behavior. Warren should not have provided DeSantis a narrow opportunity to exploit. But that doesn’t excuse the governor’s gross abuse of power, his contempt for Hillsborough voters or his disregard for due process.

      DeSantis announced during a staged appearance in Tampa that he had suspended Warren for failing to prosecute certain crimes. The governor’s 10-page order is a political smear job, full of what-ifs and supposition that would be laughed out of court.

      The Republican governor accused Warren, a Democrat, of putting himself “above the law” by signing statements that he would not enforce laws prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors or laws limiting abortion. No matter that Florida has no such gender-affirming law for Warren to prosecute — or not prosecute. Warren joined 91 other attorneys general and district attorneys around the country in signing a statement in June declaring they would “decline” to prosecute “reproductive health decisions.” But DeSantis cited no example of Warren having declined to prosecute an actual case. Who gets punished for acts they don’t commit?

      DeSantis’ enemies in DeSantis’ Florida — that’s who.

  2. dakinikat says:

    I learned yesterday that texas has punitive damage caps so the full amount may or may not get handed over to that poor couple. They may have to fight for it.

    https://news.bloomberglaw.com/bankruptcy-law/alex-jones-ordered-to-pay-extra-45-million-in-punitive-damages

    In Texas, there are statutory limits on punitive damages, with a per-defendant cap of two times the amount of economic damages, plus the amount of noneconomic damages found by the jury—the latter part not to exceed $750,000.

    Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of the 459th District Court in Travis County may reduce the punitive damages given those caps, and Jones’ attorneys said immediately after the verdict that they would file a motion to reduce the punitive award.

    The Texas law “protects companies and bad actors like Alex Jones, so that they’re never going to be punished to the full extent that would be needed to truly deter them from future actions and to teach other people that this is bad behavior,” said Carrie Goldberg of the C.A. Goldberg Law Firm in New York. “Texas is unusual.”

    The very purpose of punitive damages gets frustrated when there’s a cap, she said.

    “We do not believe punitive damage caps are constitutional as applied to our case and will certainly litigate that issue if necessary,” Mark Bankston, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, told Bloomberg Law.

    You know, it’s a republican thing to protect their buddies against “frivolous lawsuits.” The next suit against Jones is in Connecticut, and all bets are off. The lawyers may access the Texas material and testimony and may use it and the jury’s decisions. This one may hurt him big time.

    • bostonboomer says:

      They knew that going in. Jones faces two more Sandy Hook trials, one in Texas and one in Connecticut. He could also be charged with perjury. More victims could be emboldened to sue him. Maybe Boston bombing victims.

    • Enheduanna says:

      He got caught straight out lying under oath. They need to throw him in jail.

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. NW Luna says:

    Love the artist-and-cat pictures, BB. How could anyone prefer a monkey over a cat?

    The “safe haven” baby drop-off idea — horrible. Imagine having to endure the pregnancy, and labor and birth (which are more dangerous than an abortion) because you can’t get an abortion.

    • dakinikat says:

      I know I read that and was horrified! What if you didn’t completely expel the birth contents? And suddenly a baby goes missing? Someone doesn’t notice? Plus, babies look disposable and can be just dumped into foster care and that’s good?

    • Beata says:

      The baby boxes were called foundling wheels in medieval Europe and were located in the outside walls of churches.

      They really do want to take us back to the Middle Ages.

      • quixote says:

        Yes. That was my first thought. Difference being that they had no safe medical alternative so it was actually *less* barbaric.

        • quixote says:

          Also, something I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around since Handmaid Coney Barrett first mentioned how baby boxes solved all problems with the lack of abortion options.

          What does she think of babies if that’s how she feels? What does she think they feel? I mean, just imagine, being no days old, hardwired for human touch above all at that time, and there’s nobody. No voices even. Weird roars perhaps of cars going by, but you don’t know what that is. You might cry, and still nobody. I’d imagine an adult would have to be shot into space in a personal pod and watch the Earth get smaller and smaller to feel anything like the level of abandonment. It’s vicious beyond belief and it’s perfectly fine with those ghouls.


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