Finally Friday Reads: Senator Buzzkill from West Virginia

Il bersaglio, Carlo Carra.1928

Il bersaglio, Carlo Carra.1928

Good Day Sky Dancers!

There’s some good news from the Insurrection Investigation and some bad news on the Biden Domestic Plan. Let’s start with the good news. Then, I’ll drag Manchin’s ass to the virtual woodshed.

Let me just start out with one fact.  The Secret Service is a mess; maybe Major had a reason for biting some of them.  We’ve discovered they deleted texts when the Inspector General of Homeland Security told them not to do so. We’re also finding out they are trying to cover up the Trump Temper Tantrum in his motorcade when the Toddler-in-chief wanted to lead his ugly band of traitors to the Capitol on January 6th.  This is from CNN: “First on CNN: DC police officer in Trump Jan. 6 motorcade corroborates details of heated Secret Service exchange to committee.”

A Washington, DC, police officer has corroborated to the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, details regarding a heated exchange former President Donald Trump had with his Secret Service detail when he was told he could not go to the US Capitol after his rally, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN.

The officer with the Metropolitan Police Department was in the motorcade with the Secret Service for Trump on January 6 and recounted what was seen to committee investigators, according to the source.

A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment. A spokesperson for Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately respond to comment.

The description of the angry exchange between Trump and his Secret Service detail was a striking moment during the June testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Hutchinson said that she heard a secondhand account told to her by then-White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato that Trump was so enraged at his Secret Service detail for blocking him from going to the Capitol on the day of the insurrection that “he reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel” and “then used his free hand to lunge towards” his Secret Service lead agent Robert Engel. Hutchinson testified that Ornato told her the story in front of Engel and he did not dispute the account.

Neither of the agents named in the testimony have commented publicly on Hutchinson’s testimony. But soon after it, a Secret Service official who would only speak on background, said Engel would deny parts of the story regarding Trump grabbing at the steering wheel and lunging toward an agent on his detail. The agency has said the agents involved would testify to that effect, though they have not yet gone back to the committee to testify.

The committee is also engaging with the driver who was in the presidential SUV regarding possible testimony, the source said. A lawyer for the driver did not respond to a request for comment.

Andrew Wyeth, HANS HERR HOUSE, 1949

Trump is basically unsuited to be an adult, let alone an officeholder.  Let me give you some information on those deleted text messages since I brought up the subject. This is from The Washington Post: “Secret Service erased texts from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, official says.”

A government watchdog accused the U.S. Secret Service of erasing texts from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, after his office requested them as part of an inquiry into the U.S. Capitol attack, according to a letter sent to lawmakers this week.

Joseph V. Cuffari, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate Homeland Security committees indicating that the text messages have vanished and that efforts to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack were being hindered.

“The Department notified us that many U.S. Secret Service (USSS) text messages, from January 5 and 6, 2021 were erased as part of a device-replacement program,” he wrote in a letter dated Wednesday and obtained by The Washington Post. The letter was earlier reported on by the Intercept and CNN.

Cuffari emphasized that the erasures came “after” the Office of Inspector General requested copies of the text messages for its own investigation, and signaled that they were part of a pattern of DHS resistance to his inquiries. Staff members are required by law to surrender records so that he can audit the sprawling national security agency, but he said they have “repeatedly” refused to provide them until an attorney reviews them.

“This review led to weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced,” he wrote, and offered to brief the House and Senate committees on the “access issues.”

Yuri Petrovich Kugach,
“Autumn”, 1961

Writing for Axios, Andrew Solender believes the  “Jan. 6 panel aims to “reconstruct” deleted Secret Service texts.”

“It’s concerning, obviously. If there’s a way we can reconstruct the texts or what have you, we will,” Thompson, who also chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, told Axios at the Capitol on Thursday.

  • Thompson said the inspector general “was not clear as to how” the texts were deleted, adding that the committee “asked them some time ago to look at it.”

  • Asked if the committee would bring in Secret Service agents to try to reconstruct the texts, he said, “I think it’s important for us to get as much information about how this discrepancy occurred.”

  • Thompson said the Jan. 6 panel has not yet interviewed Ornato and Robert Engel, another agent mentioned in Hutchinson’s testimony, but said, “We’ve been talking to them.”

So, Senator Joe Manchin did it again.  He basically stopped the Biden Domestic plan from become anything more than a few healthcare items.  He tanked the climate change agenda.

From The New York Times article in the above tweet: “How One Senator Doomed the Democrats’ Climate Plan. Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia led his party and his president through months of tortured talks, with nothing to show for it as the planet dangerously heats up.” 

First, he killed a plan that would have forced power plants to clean up their climate-warming pollution. Then, he shattered an effort to help consumers pay for electric vehicles. And, finally, he said he could not support government incentives for solar and wind companies or any of the other provisions that the rest of his party and his president say are vital to ensure a livable planet.

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who took more campaign cash from the oil and gas industry than any other senator, and who became a millionaire from his family coal business, independently blew up the Democratic Party’s legislative plans to fight climate change. The swing Democratic vote in an evenly divided Senate, Mr. Manchin led his party through months of tortured negotiations that collapsed on Thursday night, a yearlong wild goose chase that produced nothing as the Earth warms to dangerous levels.

“It seems odd that Manchin would choose as his legacy to be the one man who single-handedly doomed humanity,” said John Podesta, a former senior counselor to President Barack Obama and founder of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank.

Privately, Senate Democratic staff members seethed and sobbed on Thursday night, after more than a year of working nights and weekends to scale back, water down, trim and tailor the climate legislation to Mr. Manchin’s exact specifications, only to have it rejected inches from the finish line.

“Rage keeps me from tears,” Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a longtime advocate for climate legislation, wrote on Twitter late Thursday.

“October and Cape Cod”, Edward Hopper

We have to pick up more seats in the Senate this fall to make this jerk irrelevant.  We have this piece from Ronald Brownstein from The Atlantic: “Mother Nature Dissents. From Texas to California, voters are enduring rude wake-up calls about the future of our country.”

Mother nature is entering a dissenting opinion on last month’s Supreme Court decision that weakened the federal government’s ability to combat climate change.

With record heat in Texas that is testing the state’s power grid, a California wildfire that has threatened an ancient grove of sequoias considered a foundation stone of the national-park system, and persistent drought across the West that is forcing unprecedented cutbacks in water deliveries from the Colorado River, the summer of 2022 already is shaping up as another season of extreme and dangerous environmental conditions.

The paradox is that precisely as these events are dramatizing the rising costs of inaction on climate change, Washington faces more difficulty in taking action. That’s not only because of the Supreme Court but also because of the resistance to sweeping legislation in the Senate from every Republican as well as Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who represents one of the top coal-producing states, West Virginia. Adding to the strain: The states most integrated into the existing fossil-fuel economy—almost all of them controlled by Republicans—are escalating their efforts to block action on climate change from the federal government and even the private sector.

In all of these ways, both the magnitude of the threat and the difficulty of responding to it are simultaneously rising—a trend that climate scientists find equally frustrating and frightening.

“In a world where facts are no longer the currency, it actually is very hard to make arguments in favor of doing what seems very logical,” Kathy Jacobs, the director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions at the University of Arizona, told me. “People are questioning really fundamental scientific principles and/or just choosing to ignore them. This post-fact world we are operating in makes dealing with this problem much more difficult.”

Ends of Barns, 1922, Georgia O’Keeffe

This is from NBC News: “Manchin balks at climate and tax pieces of Biden agenda bill but backs health care provisions. Manchin’s position leaves Democratic leaders with a grueling choice: They can either drop the package or pass the provisions he supports.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and his staff told Democratic leadership on Thursday that he’s not willing to support major climate and tax provisions in a sweeping Biden agenda bill, according to a Democrat briefed on the conversations.

Instead, Manchin, a key centrist who holds the swing vote in the 50-50 Senate, said he is willing to back only a filibuster-proof economic bill with drug pricing and a two-year extension of funding under the Affordable Care Act, the source said.

Manchin’s move upends lengthy negotiations with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., most likely forcing the party to scrap climate change policies and new taxes and delivering a major blow to some of President Joe Biden’s priorities heading into an already challenging midterm election landscape for Democrats this fall.

Manchin “was explicit that he will not support a bill in August” with energy or climate provisions or one “closing tax loopholes exploited by the wealthiest” and large corporations, “despite his support for those specific things throughout the entire negotiation,” said the Democrat briefed about the discussions.

Democrats hope to pass a bill before September to prevent major insurance premium hikes under the Affordable Care Act, which could be difficult to avert if they don’t act quickly.

“Political headlines are of no value to the millions of Americans struggling to afford groceries and gas as inflation soars to 9.1%,” Manchin spokesperson Sam Runyon told NBC News in a statement. “Senator Manchin believes it’s time for leaders to put political agendas aside, reevaluate and adjust to the economic realities the country faces to avoid taking steps that add fuel to the inflation fire.”

A Democratic aide familiar with the talks said Manchin conveyed to Democratic leadership that he could support a package that includes climate and tax provisions as long as they’re paid for — or that he would just want a bill on prescription drugs and ACA money.

I’m not sure how to precisely describe the behavior of the Senator. His actions make him appear quite selfish and power-hungry.

Okay, one more piece of good breaking news then I turn our conversation over to you!  “Exclusive: Fulton County DA sends ‘target’ letters to Trump allies in Georgia investigation” as reported by Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman.

In the latest sign that she is moving rapidly in her investigation into Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has sent so-called “target” letters to prominent Georgia Republicans informing them they could be indicted for their role in a scheme to appoint alternate electors pledged to the former president despite Joe Biden’s victory in the state, according to legal sources familiar with the matter.

The move by Willis, a Democrat, threatens to have major political implications in a crucial battleground state with high-profile races for governor and the U.S. Senate this fall. Among the recipients of the target letters, the sources said, are GOP state Sen. Burt Jones, Gov. Brian Kemp’s running mate for lieutenant governor, David Shafer, the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, and state Sen. Brandon Beach.

Jones and Shafer were among those who participate in a closed-door meeting at the state Capitol on Dec. 14, 2020, in which 16 Georgia Republicans selected themselves as the electors for the state, although they had no legal basis for doing so. Shafer, according to a source who was present, presided over the meeting, conducting it as though it was an official proceeding, in which those present voted themselves as the bona fide electors in Georgia — and then signed their names to a declaration to that effect that was sent to the National Archives.

The offices or spokespersons for Jones, Shafer and Beach did not respond to requests for comment. Willis, in an interview, declined any comment on the target letters. But she confirmed she is considering another potentially controversial move: requesting that Trump himself testify under oath to the special grand jury that is investigating his conduct.

“Yes,” said Willis when asked if there was any chance Trump will be called to testify. “I think it’s something that we’re still weighing and evaluating.” She also said she had spoken to Dwight Thomas, a veteran local defense lawyer who has been retained to represent Trump, as recently as Thursday. She declined to say what they talked about. Thomas did not respond to requests for comment.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Manchin Monday Reads: Definitely Not a Man of his Word

Hi, Sky Dancers from cold and gloomy New Orleans!

I always felt out of place in the nation’s heartland. The food was boring. The people did inexplicably rude things a lot in terms of what I was taught. I was a bank teller for a while at university and was told that I should call elderly people by their first names. My mother constantly complained when younger people did that to her or Dad feeling it was highly disrespectful. I just couldn’t do it. That was just one of the things she would’ve whooped me over. I used y’all when I taught which confused my students like crazy, People from Minnesota thought I had a southern accent when it was just my mother’s Missouri twang. So, my upbringing made a lot of sense once I got down here.

There are a lot of old-timey niceties and characteristics down here that aren’t as important as other places and they seem dated these days. One of the most cherished characteristics is being a “man of your word”. There’s another saying that “your handshake is as good as your word”. Senator Joe Manchin has monumentally failed that test. He’s not only failed that one but the one where your Senator is supposed to represent his constituent’s interests and not his own. That American Value is broadly shared and understood. I actually believe Joe may jump ship to become republican if the wind blows that way for the next Federal Election. I saw a reporter trying to get him to talk after coming out of Mitch McConnell’s office. I really didn’t believe he was up to anything good so who knows? Mitch certainly is wooing him. Lexi Lonas writing for The Hill wrote this three days ago:” McConnell: ‘It would be a great idea’ for Manchin to switch parties.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday told reporters that “it would be a great idea” for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to switch to the Republican Party.

The comment came after McConnell and Manchin had a meeting as negotiations continue for President Biden’s Build Back Better plan, The Associated Press reported.

“As you know, he likes to talk,” McConnell said of Manchin. “It would not surprise you to know that I’ve suggested for years it would be a great idea, representing a deep-red state like West Virginia, for him to come over to our side.”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” McConnell added.

Manchin, a former governor and centrist Democrat from ruby-red West Virginia has quashed thoughts on switching parties often in his time in political office.

Ruby-red West Virginia is right there at the bottom of the list of everything this country has to offer along with a lot of other Southern States including mine. You may notice that I’ve put links on today’s pictures. That’s because each one goes to an article about the hardscrabble life of many West Virginians. Senator Manchin has just taken jobs from their adults, food from their children, and health and education for everyone with his statements on Fox News on Sunday.

Joe Manchin obviously disrespects his voters. This headline is from HuffPo: “Joe Manchin Privately Told Colleagues Parents Use Child Tax Credit Money On Drugs. The West Virginia senator just killed Democrats’ agenda. In private negotiations, he questioned whether the poorest Americans would spend financial aid wisely.” That old chestnut has been disproven by a lot of researchers in my field of economics including super-libertarian Milton Friedman. But, there it is, poor people are poor because they are deficient and deserve it.

After months of haggling with President Joe Biden and other Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) dashed his party’s hopes on Sunday by announcing he wouldn’t vote for the Build Back Better legislation.

Publicly, his biggest gripes are about the cost of the bill. But privately, Manchin has told his colleagues that he essentially doesn’t trust low-income people to spend government money wisely.

In recent months, Manchin has told several of his fellow Democrats that he thought parents would waste monthly child tax credit payments on drugs instead of providing for their children, according to two sources familiar with the senator’s comments.

Continuing the child tax credit for another year is a core part of the Build Back Better legislation that Democrats had hoped to pass by the end of the year. The policy has already cut child poverty by nearly 30%.

Manchin’s private comments shocked several senators, who saw it as an unfair assault on his own constituents and those struggling to raise children in poverty.

Manchin has also told colleagues he believes that Americans would fraudulently use the proposed paid sick leave policy, specifically saying people would feign being sick and go on hunting trips, a source familiar with his comments told HuffPost.

Manchin’s office declined to comment for this story.In a statement on Sunday, he said he opposed the Build Back Better agenda largely because of its cost.

This quote is from the Greg Sargent Op-Ed from the above tweet.

Early Monday morning, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the Senate will vote early next year on a new version of Build Back Better, after Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) declared his intention to torpedo the proposal.

That’s a reference to Manchin’s decision to sink the centerpiece of President Biden’s domestic agenda on Fox News. Schumer says the Senate will debate a “revised version.”

There aren’t particularly strong grounds for optimism that a vote alone will pressure Manchin to shift. However, the fact that Schumer is telegraphing a vote on a new version is consistent with a scenario in which BBB is revised in keeping with Manchin’s concerns.

If there is any way to move Manchin to yes — and this is a very big “if” — it would be this one.

Which is why we should pay more attention to the news that Goldman Sachs has downgraded the U.S. growth forecast, in response to Manchin’s opposition to BBB. This is an indication of how isolated Manchin has become, and points to a new vulnerability in his position.

In its note, Goldman declared it had reduced its projection of gross domestic product growth to 2 percent from 3 percent for the first quarter of 2022, and reduced it by a bit less for the second and third quarters.

Note why Goldman did this. As it argued, this slowdown will be mainly because fiscal stimulus from the covid-19 rescue package earlier this year will wind down. Goldman projects that if BBB does not pass, that fiscal picture will be “more negative” than it might have been.

As one example, Goldman cites the expanded child tax credit, which was part of the covid relief package and now sends checks to most American families. If BBB fails, it will expire.

This blows up a key element of Manchin’s justification for opposing BBB. He says it will feed inflation and the debt, though as Jim Tankersley demonstrates, many economic experts think BBB won’t feed either.

The Struggles of West Virginia West Virginia Is Dealing With an Economic and Social Crisis. So Why Do People Stay?

Sargent suggests that when this happens that it should be named “The Manchin Slowdown”.

CNN describes “How months of talks between Biden and Manchin over Build Back Better broke down .”

President Joe Biden was at home in Delaware Sunday when Sen. Joe Manchin appeared on Fox News to abruptly declare he could not support his sweeping social and climate plan. “I’ve tried everything humanly possible,” the West Virginia Democrat said, appearing remotely. “I can’t get there. This is a no.”

Biden, who learned of Manchin’s plans only minutes before the TV appearance, tried quickly to get the senator on the phone. But his attempts were unsuccessful.

In an equally surprising step, the White House torched Manchin afterward in a statement bristling with resentment that shattered the amity Biden had sought to cultivate.Biden personally signed off on the blistering statement issued by press secretary Jen Psaki after Manchin’s announcement on Fox News, according to a source familiar with the matter. While staff drafted language addressing Manchin’s specific concerns — on inflation, climate provisions and how the plan was paid for — Biden specifically instructed them to add that if Manchin stood by his comments, he had violated his word to the President.

Manchin is the topic du jour. Axios argues that Manchin may go Independent.

What he’s saying: Manchin also said if Democrats want to try and tackle a smaller package, they would need to put new legislation through committees and hold hearings on the programs.

  • He also criticized leadership’s strategy, arguing they wrongly assumed “surely we can move one person, surely we can badger and beat one person up.”
  • “Well, guess what? I’m from West Virginia. I’m not from where they’re from, and they can just beat the living crap out of people and think they’ll be submissive, period,” Manchin said.
  • Manchin also said he made clear to Democratic leadership that he disagreed with their approach of treating legislation “as if you have 55 or 60 senators that are Democrats, and you can do whatever you want.”
  • “I said, I’m not a Washington Democrat,” Manchin told Kercheval.

This link comes from Michael Tomasky writing for The New Republic: “Joe Manchin Betrays West Virginia. The senator says he’s a “no” on Biden’s Build Back Better Act, ensuring that the struggling people of his state fall further behind.”

Joe Manchin’s net worth, according to the money-in-politics website Open Secrets, was $7.6 million in 2018, when he last sought reelection. Median household income this year in the state of West Virginia, according to the St. Louis Fed, is $51,615. That’s nearly $30,000 below the national average.

And this, in a nutshell, is American politics generally and the United States Senate particularly: a multimillionaire old white guy telling poor people that they just need to get off their asses and work and the government shouldn’t be helping them.

Although there’s still a chance Manchin may support some version of the Build Back Better Act, his announcement Sunday morning—on Fox News, natch—that he couldn’t vote for the existing version of the bill is politically devastating for his party and the president he presumably supported and voted for. That will be the focus of most of the punditry. But it’s even more devastating for the people of West Virginia, who are falling further behind the rest of the country with each passing decade and who have been sold a fantasy about the source of their problems and how they will be fixed.

The only thing I can say is that most rural ruby-red states are mixed up in the Trump Cult and Manchin’s state is likely no different. This is from Newsweek written by David T Freedman: “Millions of Angry, Armed Americans Stand Ready to Seize Power If Trump Loses in 2024” This feels like reading about those Confederate Deadenders that still run around the backwoods but many are also up in the plains states and other blue states with backwoods of their own that cling to a white christianist identity.

Mike “Wompus” Nieznany is a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran who walks with a cane from the combat wounds he received during his service. That disability doesn’t keep Nieznany from making a living selling custom motorcycle luggage racks from his home in Gainesville, Georgia. Neither will it slow him down when it’s time to visit Washington, D.C.—heavily armed and ready to do his part in overthrowing the U.S. government.

Millions of fellow would-be insurrectionists will be there, too, Nieznany says, “a ticking time-bomb” targeting the Capitol. “There are lots of fully armed people wondering what’s happening to this country,” he says. “Are we going to let Biden keep destroying it? Or do we need to get rid of him? We’re only going to take so much before we fight back.” The 2024 election, he adds, may well be the trigger.

Nieznany is no loner. His political comments on the social-media site Quora received 44,000 views in the first two weeks of November and more than 4 million overall. He is one of many rank-and-file Republicans who own guns and in recent months have talked openly of the need to take down—by force if necessary—a federal government they see as illegitimate, overreaching and corrosive to American freedom.

The phenomenon goes well beyond the growth of militias, which have been a feature of American life at least since the Ku Klux Klan rose to power after the Civil War. Groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, which took part in the January 6th riot at the Capitol and may have played organizational roles, have grown in membership. Law enforcement has long tracked and often infiltrated these groups. What Nieznany represents is something else entirely: a much larger and more diffuse movement of more-or-less ordinary people, stoked by misinformation, knitted together by social media and well-armed. In 2020, 17 million Americans bought 40 million guns and in 2021 were on track to add another 20 million. If historical trends hold, the buyers will be overwhelmingly white, Republican and southern or rural.

America’s massive and mostly Republican gun-rights movement dovetails with a growing belief among many Republicans that the federal government is an illegitimate tyranny that must be overthrown by any means necessary. That combustible formula raises the threat of armed, large-scale attacks around the 2024 presidential election—attacks that could make the January 6 insurrection look like a toothless stunt by comparison. “The idea that people would take up arms against an American election has gone from completely farfetched to something we have to start planning for and preparing for,” says University of California, Los Angeles law professor Adam Winkler, an expert on gun policy and constitutional law.

You may continue to read the long and depressing read. What’s to be done with thee deadenders?

Anyway, I’m hoping you have a great week and holiday for those who have one to celebrate! Happy Christmas to you! I really hope this week doesn’t sent us way backward in the progress we made this year in fighting the pandemic.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?