Thursday Reads: Election Aftermath

The Yellow Cow, Franz Marc

The Yellow Cow, Franz Marc

Good Afternoon!!

I’ve been sitting here for awhile with my laptop open, staring into space; and I just realized that I’m kind of in a daze after the past few days.

Election day was much better for Democrats than I expected, even though I had read convincing arguments from Democratic polling experts Simon Rosenberg and Tom Bonier that they could do well. I actually included their predictions in my election day  Tuesday post via a piece by Rosenberg.

My worst fears didn’t materialize, and that’s great; but we’re still in a kind of limbo waiting for results in Arizona and Nevada. It will also be a long time before California counts all the votes, so we may not know who controls the House for some time. In the Senate, we may not know until the December 6 Georgia runoff.

One thing we do know for sure is that abortion rights was an extremely important issue for voters in many states.

The New York Times: ‘My Main, Core Issue’: Abortion Was the Driving Force for Many Voters.

It was a driving force for a retired banker in San Antonio, an artist in Racine, Wis., an event planner in Miami Beach. It motivated college students and retirees, men and especially women. Even those who might usually skip a midterm election had been compelled to make time to cast a ballot.

Across the nation, voters felt an obligation to weigh in on what, for many, was a vital matter: abortion rights.

“Abortion was my main, core issue,” said Urica Carver, 41, a registered Republican from Scranton, Pa.

A single mother of six children, Ms. Carver, a caseworker for the state, said she would have most likely supported Republicans in the midterms. But the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer magnified an issue that outweighed all others, she said. Abortion, she said, was a personal decision, and she would want her own daughters to have the option if needed.

Ms. Carver voted a straight Democratic ticket. “If they didn’t support that right, regardless of who they were,” she said, “they were not getting my vote.”

Two Poodles, Pierre Bonnard

Two Poodles, Pierre Bonnard

Abortion played a larger role in midterm election results than even many Democrats, who had made it central to their campaigns, expected. Pre-election polls had shown Americans fixated on inflation and crime, with abortion still a concern but not as much of a priority.

Those opposed to abortion rights also said the issue moved them to vote. But in states with ballot initiatives that could affect abortion access, the issue drew more people who supported abortion rights, or did not want more restrictions.

In all five states where abortion-related questions were on the ballot on Tuesday, voters chose to protect access to the procedure or reject further limits. And in some places where the future of abortion rights were uncertain, Democratic candidates who campaigned on the issue fared well — particularly in Michigan, where voters re-elected the Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and in Pennsylvania, where the Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governorship and the Democrat John Fetterman won the Senate race.

Read the rest at the NYT.

John Hendrikson at The Atlantic: How Abortion Defined the 2022 Midterms. Where Dr. Oz stumbled, John Fetterman only had to say Roe v. Wade. And so it went across the nation.

In red and blue states alike, reproductive autonomy proved a defining issue of the 2022 midterms. Although much preelection punditry predicted that the Pennsylvania Democratic nominee John Fetterman’s post-stroke verbal disfluency was poised to “blow up” the pivotal Senate race on Election Day, the exit polls suggest that abortion seismically affected contests up and down the ballot.

Concerns over the future of reproductive rights unequivocally drove Democratic turnout and will now lead to the rewriting of state laws around the country. In deep-red Kentucky, voters rejected an amendment that read, “Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” In blue havens such as California and Vermont, voters approved ballot initiatives enshrining abortion rights into their state constitutions.

In Michigan, a traditionally blue state that in recent years has turned more purple, voters likewise enshrined reproductive protections into law, with 45 percent of exit-poll respondents calling abortion the most important issue on the ballot. In the race for the Michigan statehouse, the incumbent Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, trounced her Republican challenger, Tudor Dixon, who had said that she supports abortion only in instances that would save the life of the woman, and never in the case of rape or incest. Dixon lost by more than 10 percentage points and almost half a million votes.

After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision ended the federal right to abortion in June, many observers wondered whether pro-abortion-rights Democrats would remain paralyzed with despair or whether their anger would become a galvanizing force going into the election season. The answer is now clear—though, in fact, it has been for some time.

In August, just six weeks after Dobbs, Kansas voters rejected an amendment to the state constitution that could have ushered in a ban on abortion. That grassroots-movement defeat of the ballot initiative was a genuine shocker—and it showed voters in other states what was possible at the local level.

William James Webbe, The White Owl, 'Alone and warming his five wits, The white owl in the belfry sits,' signed with monogram and dated '1856'

William James Webbe, The White Owl, ‘Alone and warming his five wits, The white owl in the belfry sits,’ signed with monogram and dated ‘1856’

Right leaning Axios reports that anti-abortion groups think the problem is that Republicans distanced themselves from the abortion issues: Republicans’ abortion silence backfires in midterms, by Oriana Gonzalez.

The blame game has begun around what led to Republicans’ disappointing results in the midterms, with some outside groups zeroing in on the party’s lack of an abortion message.

Driving the news: Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a large anti-abortion organization with close ties to GOP leaders, slammed Republican candidates who distanced themselves from abortion bans and failed to clearly communicate their stance on the issue, calling it “political malpractice.”

The group said in a memo that to “win in competitive races,” candidates needed to focus on defining their opponents as “abortion extremists” and “contrast that with a clearly defined pro-life position centered around consensus such as pain-capable or heartbeat limits.” [….]

They specifically praised Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen.-elect J.D. Vance of Ohio, and Georgia Senate hopeful Herschel Walker, whose closely watched race is headed for a runoff.

Yeah, no. I don’t think that would have worked. The candidates who did talk about it mostly didn’t do well.

More points of view on what kept the anticipated “red wave” from happening

Noah Berlatsky at Public Notice: The red wave that wasn’t.

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the results of the 2022 midterms were still uncertain. Control of both the House and the Senate remained up for grabs; the latter may ultimately be determined by a run-off in Georgia in December.

We do know one thing though. Joe Biden has had the most successful midterm of any president in 20 years. The Democrats in disarray narrative looks a lot more like Republicans in disarray. The American people, it turns out, did care about inflation. But they cared about democracy too….

The Democrats currently have 50 seats in the Senate and a narrow majority of 224-213 in the House. Holding that, or losing a handful of seats in the House, may not seem like an impressive outcome. Usually, though, the president’s party gets clobbered in the midterms. Donald Trump in the 2018 midterms lost 40 seats in the House. Barack Obama lost a whopping 63 seats in 2010. In comparison, his 13 seat loss in 2014 seems relatively mild, even though it shifted control to the Republicans again. George W. Bush lost 31 seats in his 2006 midterm.

You have to go back to the 2002 midterm, in the rally around the flag aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, to find a midterm in which the president’s party made any gains. The Republicans that year picked up eight seats, solidifying their hold on the House. Before that, the president’s party lost control of the House in every other midterm election since 1978.

Biden’s achievement — even if he ends up losing a handful of House seats — is all the more remarkable because his popularity remains in the doldrums. Poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight has his approval at around 41.4 percent. That’s lower than Trump’s (42.2 percent) and or Obama’s (44.8 percent) at the same point in their presidencies, when they experienced catastrophic losses.

Biden’s low approval ratings and high inflation nationally led many pundits to believe that there would be a red wave in line with most midterms. Pundits said that New York governor Kathy Hochul could be in danger of losing her blue state to challenger Lee Zeldin. Analysts also suggested Democrats could lose a Rhode Island House seat they’d held since 1991, as Republican Allen Fung looked prepared to unseat Democrat Seth Magaziner. Colorado Democratic Senator Michale Bennett was supposed to be in trouble. So was Washington state’s senator Patty Murray.

Oops! The media’s favorite meme, “Dems in disarray,” might need revisions. Read more at Public Notice.

Cows, by Vincent Van Gogh

Cows, by Vincent Van Gogh

This is a “guest essay” at The New York Times by Sohrab Ahmari: Why the Red Wave Didn’t Materialize. Ahmari thinks the Republicans’ failure to help or even empathize with working class Americans explains their electoral losses.

A week before the midterms, a video circulated online of a Starbucks barista crying while explaining the need for a union: “I’m a full-time student. I get scheduled for 25 hours a week, and on weekends they schedule me the entire day — open to close.” The manager is bad, the staffing is inadequate and the stress is overwhelming.

The video should have elicited sympathy from anyone familiar with the lousy wages and grinding conditions that characterize today’s service economy. That was not, though, the response of the full spectrum of conservative media and personalities, from Fox News to The Daily Wire to Sebastian Gorka.

“Boo Hoo!” replied Media Research Center TV, a conservative media site. “This ‘person’” — the barista happens to be transgender, hence, I suppose, the scare quotes around “person” — “was in tears because they had to work eight hours a day on the weekend.”

Episodes like this may be one reason the red wave didn’t materialize, why Republicans failed to usher in a new dawn of prosperity for the multiracial working class that Republican leaders from Senator Ted Cruz to the House policy honcho Jim Banks say they want to champion. When it came down to it, the Republican Party offered ordinary American workers little that might have bolstered their power or leveled the economic playing field. That failure helped dash conservative hopes for a clean Republican sweep.

Read more at the NYT.

Some Republicans and pundits are blaming Trump.

The New York Times: Trump Under Fire From Within G.O.P. After Midterms.

Donald J. Trump faced unusual public attacks from across the Republican Party on Wednesday after a string of midterm losses by candidates he had handpicked and supported, a display of weakness as he prepared to announce a third presidential campaign as soon as next week.

As the sheer number of missed Republican opportunities sank in, the rush to openly blame Mr. Trump was as immediate as it was surprising.

Hunting Dogs in a Boat (1889) by Winslow Homer

Hunting Dogs in a Boat (1889) by Winslow Homer

Conservative allies criticized Mr. Trump on social media and cable news, questioning whether he should continue as the party’s leader and pointing to his toxic political brand as the common thread woven through three consecutive lackluster election cycles.

Mr. Trump was seen as largely to blame for the Republicans’ underwhelming finish in Tuesday’s elections, as a number of the candidates he had endorsed in competitive races were defeated — including nominees for governor and Senate in Pennsylvania and for governor of Michigan, New York and Wisconsin.

“Republicans have followed Donald Trump off the side of a cliff,” David Urban, a longtime Trump adviser with ties to Pennsylvania, said in an interview.

Former Representative Peter King, a Republican from Long Island who has long supported Mr. Trump, said, “I strongly believe he should no longer be the face of the Republican Party,” adding that the party “can’t become a personality cult.”

The chorus of criticism, which unfolded on Fox News and social media throughout the day, revealed Mr. Trump to be at his most vulnerable point politically since the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

The Washington Post: How Trump, infighting and flawed candidates limited Republican gains. This is one of the Post’s trademark gossipy reports with 5 authors and many sources, so you’ll need to go read the whole thing if you’re interested. Here’s the intro:

Florida Sen. Rick Scott made a plea to about 35 of his colleagues during lunch at the National Republican Senatorial Committee offices in early August: Send money to the NRSC from your personal campaign accounts. The candidates were in need.

The Republican outlook had gone from glossy to grim since the July campaign finance reports. Despite $5-a-gallon gasoline and a historically unpopular president, Democratic Senate candidates in pivotal states had big financial and polling leads. First-time Republican candidates propelled by former president Donald Trump, on the other hand, were viewed unfavorably in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona and Georgia.

But Scott’s hopes of a united GOP response were dashed as soon as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stood to address the same room: Send 20 percent of the money from their leadership PACs, he told the senators, to the Senate Leadership Fund, an outside group controlled by his own loyalists, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The implication, said multiple people familiar with the exchange, was that senators needed to choose sides in a months-long battle between the two Senate leaders about the best strategy for winning, a conflict that would have serious consequences in the fall.

Bull, 1911, by Franz Marc

Bull, 1911, by Franz Marc

At least one senator left the meeting frustrated that Scott had to come hat-in-hand so late in the campaign, according to people briefed afterward. Other senators raised private concerns broadly about how Scott had managed the committee. Others blamed McConnell….

From the outside, this year’s elections looked like a virtual Republican lock. Since Lyndon B. Johnson, new Democratic presidents have lost an average of 45 House and five Senate seats in the midterms. Republicans went to the polls Tuesday needing to gain just five House seats and a single Senate seat to take control, amid soaring inflation and broad dissatisfaction with the nation’s direction.

But behind the scenes, nothing came easy to Republicans this cycle, as their historic tail winds collided with the fractious reality of a political party in the midst of a generational molting. GOP leaders spent much of the last year fighting against each other or plotting against their own primary voters. They were hobbled by unprepared first-time candidates, fundraising shortfalls and Trump, whose self-concern required constant attention — right up to the eve of the election, when he forced party bosses to beg him once again to delay a presidential campaign announcement.

That’s all I have for you today. Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great Thursday!


Thursday Reads: Elections are Coming!

Katsushika Hokusai, Peasants in Autumn, 1835-1836, Guimet Museum, Paris, France.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

You have to give Joe Biden credit.  He’s trying to offset the global inflation caused mostly by the remanents of the pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and now the revival of OPEC supply fixing mainly by the Saudis.  Given their actions, you’d almost think the Saudis and the Russians would prefer another US President. Oil companies aren’t helping either. There is usually a fairly constant profit margin between the price of a barrel of oil and the bottom line of U.S. Oil Companies.  Profits appear to be untethered to the basic costs of raw materials. These things are beyond the control of most governments, and if you check current inflation rates in our trading partners, our inflation rate is average.

Joe is trying to stave off a movement towards voting Republican before the midterms, and with good reason.  First, the Republicans are pushing their usual false narrative on oil prices and production. Yesterday, Biden introduced several initiatives along with some facts on oil production. I doubt the Faux news crowd will listen, but it’s squarely aimed at moderate Republicans and independents.

Earlier this year, because of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the price of oil and gas increased dramatically, and I acted decisively at the time.  And thanks in part to those actions, the price of our gas has fallen 30 percent from the summer highs.

Now it’s down about $1.15 a gallon from their peak during the summer, and gas prices have fallen every day in the last week.  Let me repeat: Gas prices have come down, and they continue to come down again.  They’re now down more than 27 cents a gallon in Wisconsin this past week, 27 cents in Oregon, 16 cents in Ohio, 25 cents in Nevada, 17 cents in — in Indiana in just the last 10 days.  And that’s progress.

But they’re not falling fast enough.  Families are hurting.  You’ve heard me say before, but I get it.  I come from a family — if the price of gasoline went up at the gas station, we felt it.  Gas prices hit almost every family in this country, and they squeeze their family budgets.

And when the price of gas goes up, other expenses get cut. That’s why I have been doing everything in my power to reduce gas prices since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine caused these price hikes — these prices to spike and rattled international oil markets.  (Clears throat.)  Excuse me.

I focused on how we can protect American families from that spike and give folks just a little bit of breathing room, as my dad would say.

Today I’m announcing three critical steps that my administration will take to reduce gas prices at the pump.  First, the Department of Energy will release another 15 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, extending our previously announced release through the month of December.

Independent analysis they — excuse me, independent analysts have confirmed that drawdowns from the reserves so far have played a big role in bringing down oil prices — bringing them down.  So, we’re going to continue to responsibly use that national asset.

Right now, the Strategic Pol- — the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is more than half full, with about 400 million barrels of oil.  That’s more than enough for any emergency drawdown.

Claude Monet, Autumn on the Seine at Argenteuil, 1873, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, USA.

The impact may not be immediately felt, and the Saudis could act to offset it by withdrawing more oil from the market. But it certainly is worth a try. Forbes Magazine has some analysis and stylized facts you may want to review. “Oil Inventories Worldwide And Oil Price Trends – Where Do We Stand In Q4 2022?” The analysis explains how the combined forces of the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine joined to create this global situation.  It also shows how we should come out of this if OPEC doesn’t collude to lower production and increase prices like it did during the Carter years.

The EIA forecasts an oil price of $93/b in Q4 2022 and $95/b in 2023. The EIA’s forecast projects a supply-demand parity midway through 2023, which it predicts will last for the rest of the year.

At the beginning of the pandemic, consumption was approximately five million barrels lower than the supply. The EIA’s report projects consumption only slightly below production for 2022, at 99.55 million barrels and 100.03 barrels, respectively.

However, it shows a slight reversal of this balance in 2023. The agency forecasts consumption of 101.50 million barrels and production of 101.28 million barrels for 2023.

This means the Biden initiative could speed up parity.  How will oil companies respond?

Secondly, we need to responsibly increase American oil production without delaying or deferring our transition to clean energy.  Let me — let’s debunk some myths here.  My administration has not stopped or slowed U.S. oil production; quite the opposite.  We’re producing 12 million barrels of oil per day.  And by the end of this year, we will be producing 1 million barrels a day, more than the day in which I took office.  In fact, we’re on track for record oil production in 2023.

And today, the United States is the largest producer of oil and petroleum products in the world.  We export more than we import.  And I still heard from oil comp- — and I’ve heard from oil companies that they’re worried that investing in additional oil production today will — will — in case of the — in case demand goes down in the future, and they’re not going to be able to sell their oil products at a competitive price later.

Well, we have a solution for that.  Today, I’m announcing a plan to refill the Strato- — the Strategic Petroleum Res- — Oil Reserve in the years ahead at a profit for taxpayers.  The United States government is going to purchase oil to refill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve when prices fall to $70 a barrel.  And that means oil companies can invest to ramp up production now, with confidence they’ll be able to sell their oil to us at that price in the future: $70.

Refining and refilling the reserve at $70 a barrel is a good price for companies and it’s a good price for the taxpayers, and it’s critical to our national security.

To put it in context, since March, the average price of oil has been more than $90 a barrel, the highest since 2014.  By selling from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at the higher price of $90 earlier this year and then refilling it in the future at a lower price, around $70, it will actually make money for the taxpayers, lower the price of gas, and help bolster production, all while totally consistent with my commitment to accelerate to transition to clean energy.

So my message to oil companies is: You’re sittng on record profits, and you’re — and we’re giving you more certainty.  So you can act now to increase oil production now.

Pierre Bonnard, Autumn View, 1912

Biden also focused on Abortion rights in a speech on Tuesday. This is from CNN. “Biden promises abortion rights law as Democrats try to rally voters.”  More stories of women with pregnancies going wrong in states where abortion is illegal are reaching the press. These stories show how the Republican goal of restricting abortion in all states puts women’s lives in danger.

 

President Joe Biden on Tuesday made a major promise on a push to put abortion rights into law as his party looks to seize on the politically divisive issue in the final push ahead of the midterm elections.

At an abortion-rights-focused speech at a Democratic National Committee event on Tuesday, Biden said that if Democrats elect more senators and keep control of the House in the midterms then he’d make abortion a top issue.

“The court got Roe right nearly 50 years ago and I believe the Congress should codify Roe, once and for all,” Biden said.

He then implored voters to elect more Democrats in order to make sure that bill could pass.

“If we do that, here’s the promise I make to you and the American people: The first bill I will send to the Congress will be to codify Roe v. Wade. And when Congress passes it, I’ll sign it in January, 50 years after Roe was first decided the law of the land,” Biden added.

Dating back to the 2020 campaign, Biden has called for codifying Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed a federal constitutional right to abortion. The Supreme Court overturned it earlier this year, transforming access to reproductive health care in the country. It is unclear how politically effective such a promise of prioritizing such a bill will be, given that Democrats have an intensely tough battle in November to keep both the Senate and House.

Trump’s legal problems, and the Republican silence, should continue to drive folks toward the Democratic candidates.  However, the focus may still be more on the economy than anything else. Democracy is on the ballot.  We need to shout that everywhere.   Here’s the most damning court opinion handed to Trump to date.

This is from today’s New York Times. “Judge Says Trump Signed Statement With Data His Lawyers Told Him Was False. The determination came in a decision by a federal judge that John Eastman, a lawyer for the former president, had to turn more of his emails over to the House Jan. 6 committee.”

Former President Donald J. Trump signed a document swearing under oath that information in a Georgia lawsuit he filed challenging the results of the 2020 election was true even though his own lawyers had told him it was false, a federal judge wrote on Wednesday.

The accusation came in a ruling by the judge, David O. Carter, ordering John Eastman, the conservative lawyer who strategized with the former president about overturning the election, to hand over 33 more emails to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Judge Carter, who serves with the Federal District Court for the Central District of California, determined that the emails contained possible evidence of criminal behavior.

“The emails show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public,” Judge Carter wrote. He added in a footnote that the suit contained language saying Mr. Trump was relying on information provided to him by others.

The committee has fought for months to get access to hundreds of Mr. Eastman’s emails, viewing him as the intellectual architect of plans to subvert the 2020 election, including Mr. Trump’s effort to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to block or delay congressional certification of the Electoral College results on Jan. 6, 2021. Repeatedly, the panel has argued that a “crime-fraud exception” pierces the typical attorney-client privilege that often protects communications between lawyers and clients.

The emails in question, which were dated between Nov. 3, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021, came from Mr. Eastman’s account at Chapman University, where he once served as a law school dean.

Judge Carter wrote on Wednesday that the crime-fraud exception applied to a number of the emails related to Mr. Trump and Mr. Eastman’s “efforts to delay or disrupt the Jan. 6 vote” and “their knowing misrepresentation of voter fraud numbers in Georgia when seeking to overturn the election results in federal court.”

Judge Carter found four emails that “demonstrate an effort by President Trump and his attorneys to press false claims in federal court for the purpose of delaying the Jan. 6 vote.”

In one of them, Mr. Trump’s lawyers advised him that simply having a challenge to the election pending in front of the Supreme Court could be enough to delay the final tally of Electoral College votes from Georgia.

“This email,” Judge Carter wrote, “read in context with other documents in this review, make clear that President Trump filed certain lawsuits not to obtain legal relief, but to disrupt or delay the Jan. 6 congressional proceedings through the courts.”

I can’t see how this doesn’t lead to some type of DOJ action.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found more congressional intrigue related to January 6th.  “Texts from Loeffler’s phone shed light on activities ahead of Jan. 6 and 2021 runoff.”

Tricia Raffensperger’s text message,six days after the 2020 elections, was as blistering as it was direct.

Hours after Kelly Loeffler, then Georgia’s junior U.S. senator, called for her husband, Brad, to resign from his post as secretary of state in a bid to appease then-President Donald Trump, the typically measured grandmother made clear exactly how she felt about Loeffler.

“Never did I think you were the kind of person to unleash such hate and fury on someone in political office of the same party,” Tricia Raffensperger wrote, noting that her family is under siege “because you didn’t have the decency or good manners to come and talk to my husband with any questions you may have had.”

“I hold you personally responsible,” she added, “for anything that happens to any of my family, from my husband, children and grandchildren.”

Vincent van Gogh, Appel Orchard with Lime Tree Behind the Mensingh Inn in Zweeloo (Coevorden), 1881, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

You may read the texts at the link.

As Trump’s plan to overturn the election on Jan. 6 unfolded, Loeffler came under increasing pressure from her Georgia colleagues, Republican activists and some of her own aides to join in.

One of the most ardent voices who sought to enlist Loeffler was then-Congresswoman-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene.

A month before the conservative firebrand was sworn into the U.S. House, Greene asked Loeffler to talk “about a plan we are developing on how to vote on the electoral college votes on Jan 6th.”

“I need a Senator!” Greene wrote on Dec. 2, 2020, “And I think this is a major help for you to win on the 5th!!”

I have office hours at the top of the hour, so I’m off to do that!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads

Vincent Van Gogh, Grapes

Vincent Van Gogh, Grapes

Good Afternoon!!

We are fast approaching the day of decision: November 8, 2022 is only 3 weeks away. Democracy is on the ballot, but according to the New York Times’ interpretation of a new poll, voters aren’t that concerned about a fascist takeover by Republicans.

The New York Times: Voters See Democracy in Peril, but Saving It Isn’t a Priority.

Voters overwhelmingly believe American democracy is under threat, but seem remarkably apathetic about that danger, with few calling it the nation’s most pressing problem, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll.

In fact, more than a third of independent voters and a smaller but noteworthy contingent of Democrats said they were open to supporting candidates who reject the legitimacy of the 2020 election, as they assigned greater urgency to their concerns about the economy than to fears about the fate of the country’s political system.

The doubts about elections that have infected American politics since the 2020 contest show every sign of persisting well into the future, the poll suggested: Twenty-eight percent of all voters, including 41 percent of Republicans, said they had little to no faith in the accuracy of this year’s midterm elections.

Political disagreements appear to be seeping into the fabric of everyday life. Fourteen percent of voters said political views revealed a lot about whether someone is a good person, while 34 percent said it revealed a little. Nearly one in five said political disagreements had hurt relationships with friends or family.

Political disagreements appear to be seeping into the fabric of everyday life. Fourteen percent of voters said political views revealed a lot about whether someone is a good person, while 34 percent said it revealed a little. Nearly one in five said political disagreements had hurt relationships with friends or family.

The entire article is trademark both-sidesing, of course–it’s The New York Times! The authors dug up a Democrat who is worried about “divisiveness” on “both sides.”

“I do agree that the biggest threat is survival of our democracy, but it’s the divisiveness that is creating this threat,” said Ben Johnson, 33, a filmmaker from New Orleans and a Democrat. “It feels like on both sides, people aren’t agreeing on facts anymore. We can’t meet in the middle if we can’t agree on simple facts. You’re not going to be able to move forward and continue as a country if you can’t agree on facts.”

The poll showed that voters filtered their faith in democracy through a deeply partisan lens. A majority of voters in both parties identified the opposing party as a “major threat to democracy.”

Most Republicans said the dangers included President Biden, the mainstream media, the federal government and voting by mail. Most Democrats named Donald J. Trump, while large shares of the party’s voters also said the Supreme Court and the Electoral College were threats to democracy.

Seventy-one percent of all voters said democracy was at risk — but just 7 percent identified that as the most important problem facing the country.

But why don’t we agree on “facts?” The poll suggests the media has something to do with that, but the NYT doesn’t include that in their analysis.

The NYT also doesn’t emphasize that it’s mostly Republicans who don’t care about saving democracy.

The polls have been so untrustworthy in the past few elections that I don’t know how much to trust them; but I do know I can’t trust the NYT to analyze the results honestly.

Meanwhile, Republicans seem so confident about taking over the House, that they are showing their cards ahead of the election.

The Washington Post: GOP to use debt limit to force spending cuts, McCarthy says.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that if Republicans win control of the House the GOP will use raising the debt limit as leverage to force spending cuts — which could include cuts to Medicare and Social Security — and limit additional funding to Ukraine.

“You can’t just continue down the path to keep spending and adding to the debt,” the California Republican told Punchbowl News in a recent interview. “And if people want to make a debt ceiling [for a longer period of time], just like anything else, there comes a point in time where, okay, we’ll provide you more money, but you got to change your current behavior.”

Autumn landscape, 1889, Danish Peder Mørk Mønsted

Danish painter Peder Mørk Mønsted – An Autumn Landscape. Date: 1889.

“We’re not just going to keep lifting your credit card limit, right,” he added. “And we should seriously sit together and [figure out] where can we eliminate some waste? Where can we make the economy grow stronger?”

Pressed on whether changes to the entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security were part of the debt ceiling discussions, McCarthy said he would not “predetermine” anything.

The debt limit — the country’s borrowing cap — will need to be lifted next year to protect the country’s credit score and to prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt. But McCarthy suggested that his party would be willing to hold the debt limit up for policy changes

The debt limit is the total amount of money that the government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salari.es, interest on the national debt, tax refunds and other payments. The debt limit is not new spending but rather allows the government to finance existing legal obligations.

Republicans are getting ready to do Putin’s bidding if they take over the House.

The Daily Beast: Ukraine Aid Could Be on the Chopping Block in a GOP-Controlled House.

Democrats and Republicans have both been backing Ukraine aid for months now. But there’s a growing sense of unease on Capitol Hill that something could soon happen to disrupt that financial support: Republicans could win the House in November.

“I’m absolutely not supporting any further funding for Ukraine,” Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Daily Beast last week….

Throughout Congress, Republican support for providing Ukraine aid has swung in multiple directions since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the war earlier this year. Several GOP lawmakers have told The Daily Beast they think President Joe Biden is being far too “weak” on Russia and not sending enough weapons to help Ukrainians fight back.

But there’s also been a strong and steady resistance to sending billions of dollars to Ukraine, even as Putin wages war. Some Republicans have tried to blame the war on Biden and have said they would rather focus on domestic priorities—from inflation to the southern border—and want to condition Ukraine aid on other issues, whatever the consequences may be in withholding aid from Ukraine.

Dozens of Republican members of the House have already sought to throw up roadblocks to Ukraine aid packages. Fifty-seven Republicans tried blocking $40 billion in aid to Ukraine earlier this year, in addition to 11 Republican Senators. Not a single Democrat tried to stand in the way.

Amherst Campus no.1 (1969) Fairfield Porter. Parrish Art Museum, New York.

Amherst Campus (MA) no.1 (1969) Fairfield Porter. Parrish Art Museum, New York.

In other Ukraine aid news, Elon Musk’s has threatened to stop supporting Starlink in the country. Starlink is the Musk-owned satellite system that supports internet communication in the Ukraine. He has wavered on this decision, but the Biden administration doesn’t trust him. Politico: Pentagon eyes locking in Starlink funding for Ukraine.

The Pentagon is considering paying for the Starlink satellite network — which has been a lifeline for Ukraine — from a fund that has been used to supply weapons and equipment over the long term, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in the deliberations.

The Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative is designed to provide enduring support for the Ukrainian military by financing contracts with American firms for weapons and equipment that would be delivered in months or even years….

The discussion comes after CNN reported that SpaceX warned the Pentagon last month that it would no longer be able to finance the satellite terminals and communications services, which has already cost it over $80 million and could cost hundreds of millions more over the next year….

The company donated the use of Starlink terminals after Russia invaded Ukraine in February amid fears that the country would be cut off from the outside world. SpaceX’s philanthropic efforts drew widespread plaudits.

The Defense Department said on Friday that it was continuing discussions with SpaceX about a way forward. But it also said it is considering other alternatives for commercial satellite communications.

Elon Musk has shown his cards recently, offering a suggestion for negotiated peace in Ukraine that would favor Russia’s interests. Insider: Elon Musk’s pro-Russian peace deal is ‘classic Putin,’ and there’s a clue of the Russian leader’s role, Fiona Hill argues.

Elon Musk’s recent efforts to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine have almost certainly been puppeteered by Vladimir Putin, according to top Russia expert Fiona Hill.

“Putin plays the egos of big men — gives them a sense that they can play a role. But in reality, they’re just direct transmitters of messages from Vladimir Putin,” Hill told Politico this week, noting that the Tesla billionaire has tipped his hand in an obvious display of Putin’s influence.

Earlier this month, Musk tweeted a proposed peace plan he suggested could end the war in Ukraine that parroted Russian demands and echoed Kremlin talking points.

Autumn Leaves, Lake George (1924) Georgia O'Keeffe. Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio.

Autumn Leaves, Lake George (1924) Georgia O’Keeffe. Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio.

Ian Bremmer, a prominent political analyst, later reported that Musk spoke privately with Putin before drafting his proposition — an allegation that Musk denied.

While it was his October 3 tweets that garnered buzz around the globe, Musk was publicly evoking Putin’s desires even earlier.

Hill cited Musk’s September appearance at a conference in Aspen, during which he suggested a similar path forward through the war, encouraging Ukraine to “seek peace” by allowing Crimea — a territory which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 — to be recognized as Russian.

Musk also reportedly told attendees that the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine ought to be up for grabs. Russia annexed four occupied Ukrainian territories just days later, including the two mentioned by Musk.

You can also check out an interesting interview with Fiona Hill at Politico: Fiona Hill: ‘Elon Musk Is Transmitting a Message for Putin.’’

Some Democrats have been getting wishy-washy about promoting abortion as a top tier issue in the upcoming elections, but Joe Biden still seems to think it’s important. Politico: Biden to pledge legalizing abortion on Roe anniversary if Dems expand majorities.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday will promise that the first bill he’ll send to the next Congress will be legislation to reinstate the abortion protections of Roe v. Wade, according to a Democratic official previewing the president’s remarks.

In a speech at a Democratic National Committee event in Washington, Biden will also pledge to sign that bill into law around the anniversary of the original Roe ruling in late January.

Biden’s plans are contingent on Democrats holding the House and increasing their majority in the Senate, a factor acknowledged by the official previewing the remarks. As such, it is a vow that appears aimed at energizing Democrats to turn out in force in the upcoming midterm elections where the party is struggling to keep its slim majorities, as polls show early outrage over the fall of Roe v. Wade this June has been outstripped by economic concerns.

Biden has increasingly escalated his attacks on Republicans over abortion rights since the high court’s ruling this summer overturning Roe. He’s repeatedly predicted that there will be a massive surge of voter activity in the midterms pushing back against the decision — particularly from women voters. Biden also has argued that abortion will be just the start of GOP attempts to dial back rights, warning that protections for contraception and same-sex marriage could be next.

“Republicans don’t have a clue about the power of women,” he told a gathering of Democrats recently. “Let me tell you something: They’re about to find out.”

golden-autumn-1888, by Ivan Shishkin, Russian

Golden Autumn, 1888, by Ivan Shishkin, Russian painter

Meanwhile, women in red states are still dealing with the GOP’s efforts to take control of their bodies. Caroline Kitchener at The Washington Post: Desperate pleas and smuggled pills: A covert abortion network rises after Roe.

Monica had never used Reddit before. But sitting at her desk one afternoon in July — at least 10 weeks into an unwanted pregnancy in a state that had banned abortion — she didn’t know where else to turn.

“I need advice I am not prepared to have a child,” the 25-year-old wrote from her office, once everyone else had left for the day. She titled her post, “PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!”

Within hours, she got a private message from an anonymous Reddit user. If Monica sent her address, the person promised, they would mail abortion pills “asap for free.

Monica didn’t know it at the time, but her Reddit post connected her to a new facet of the battle for abortion access: the rise of a covert, international network delivering tens of thousands of abortion pills in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in June that struck down Roe v. Wade.

The emerging network — fueled by the widespread availability of medication abortion — has made the illegal abortions of today simpler and safer than those of the pre-Roe era, remembered for its back alleys and coat hangers. Distinct from services that sell pills to patients on the internet, a growing army of community-based distributors is reaching pregnant women through word of mouth or social media to supply pills for free — though typically without the safeguards of medical oversight.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

That’s all I have for you today. What’s on your mind? What stories are you following?


Mostly Monday Reads

Kristal and her dog, Temple

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I’m sorry I’m a little late today!  I had to wake up early and get Kristal uptown.  I don’t even fake being a morning person anymore and returned to bed when I got home. Kristal’s there to get spayed. If you’d like to help out a great organization helping me with her, please send any donations to Trap Dat CatTrap Dat Cat is a 501c3 Nonprofit TNR and Rescue group in New Orleans.  Feral Cat colonies are supported by the city here.. This excellent group run by the fabulous Miss Nita helps ensure they’re healthy and fixed!

Many states have entirely cut off access to abortion services due to religious activists on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. I was reminded today as I drove by our Planned Parenthood uptown, wondering which of our rights they’ll cut off next. This good news comes from NPR. “Planned Parenthood mobile clinic will take abortion to red-state borders.”

With a growing number of patients in states that now prohibit abortion traveling for the procedure, Planned Parenthood says it will soon open its first mobile abortion clinic in the country, in southern Illinois.

“Our goal is to reduce the hundreds of miles that people are having to travel now in order to access care…and meet them where they are,” said Yamelsie Rodriguez, President of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, said in an interview with NPR.

The mobile clinic will begin offering consultations and dispensing abortion pills later this year. It will operate within Illinois, where abortion remains legal, but will be able to travel closer to neighboring states’ borders, reducing the distance many patients travel for the procedure.

“It gives us a lot of flexibility about where to be,” Rodriguez said.

Temple and Kristal are inseparable come naptime. July 1, 2022

I’m still excited about the project that will put Clinic Ships in the Gulf since the surrounding states are hostile to medical science, women, and human development knowledge.

The pillow guy has lost an appeal to the Supreme Court in his defamation case.  This is from NBC News. “Supreme Court rejects Trump ally Mike Lindell’s appeal in 2020 election lawsuit.”The MyPillow CEO is fighting a defamation lawsuit filed by the voting machine company Dominion over his election conspiracy theories.”  Tough toenails, freak!

The Supreme Court on Mondayrejected MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell’s bid to fend off a defamation lawsuit the voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems filed over his far-fetched claims about the 2020 presidential election.

The justices’ decision not to hear the case means a federal judge’s ruling in August 2021 that allowed the lawsuit to move forward remains in place.

Lindell, a prominent TV salesman for the pillows his company makes, is an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump.

Dominion sued Lindell and MyPillow in February 2021, claiming $1.3 billion in damages and alleging that Lindell purposely pushed the “big lie” that Trump won the 2020 election. Lindell repeatedly echoed baseless claims that Dominion’s machines manipulated vote counts to ensure that Joe Biden defeated Trump. The claims have been widely debunked. In the lawsuit, Dominion argues that Lindell knew his claims were false, while Lindell’s lawyers say he genuinely believes them.

BB told me about this interview with former Capitol Officer and insurrection assault victim Michael Fenone at Rolling Stone. This is written by Alex Morris. “Michael Fanone Is Not Your Fucking Hero. He almost lost his life defending the Capitol on Jan. 6. Now, he’s a #resistance star — and he hates it.” His book is entitled “Hold the Line: The Insurrection and One Cop’s Battle for America’s Soul.” 

It’s behind a paywall. But, things slip to other places.  Here’s something from The Guardian: “Former DC police officer Michael Fanone blasts Kevin McCarthy as a ‘f**king weasel b***h’. The former Washington Metropolitan police officer unloaded on Republicans in an interview with Rolling Stone.”  Just so you know, he voted from Trump in 2016.  That didn’t work out so well for him.

Mr Fanone became famous after he responded to a call to help defend the US Capitol on 6 January of last year and was tazed by supporters of former president Donald Trump, which led to him having a heart attack. His book Hold the Line will be released next week on 11 October.In a new profile for Rolling Stone, he criticises the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives for lying his way through his meeting with Mr Fanone and the mother of Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after the riot.

“I think at night, when the lights are turned off, Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan have some pretty choice words to say about the fact that they have to hang on Kevin McCarthy’s wall,” he said. “They did some f**king above-average things. And they’ve got to adorn the wall of this f**king weasel b***h named Kevin McCarthy, with his fake f**king spray-on tan, whose f**king claim to fame, at least in my eyes, is the fact that he amassed a collection of Donald Trump’s favorite-flavored Starburst, put them in a Mason jar, and presented them to f**king Donald Trump. What the f**k, dude?”

Mr Fanone said he is writing the book because he is broke.

“I’m pretty sure that’s why people do things like this,” he said. “I said the things that I said for free and f**king destroyed my career, made my job untenable, and then tried to make hard lemonade out of lemons.”

He also noted that back in 2016, he voted for the former president.

“I’m cognizant of the fact that I talk like a f**king redneck, I wear camo-colored Crocs, I drive a f**king truck with camo seats, I like guns, I go hunting, I f**king drink beer from a can some places that I shouldn’t drink beer from a can at, and I’m kind of a caricature of what people think of when they think of a Trump-supporting hillbilly,” he said.

Mr McCarthy wasn’t the only target of Mr Fanone’s harsh words.

The former officer also called out notable GOP faces Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz and Josh Hawley.

Kristal on my desk chair, June 26, 2022

From The Washington Post: “FBI investigating menacing calls to ex-D.C. police officer Michael Fanone. Fanone, who was seriously injured defending the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, has been an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump.”

Federal authorities are investigating menacing phone calls and other messages directed at Michael Fanone, a former D.C. police officer who was seriously hurt defending the Capitol from rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, and has since become an outspoken critic of former president Donald Trump, according to Fanone and another person familiar with the matter.

Fanone said a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C. told him Thursday that the FBI had launched an inquiry into the communications he received, after he forwarded a recording of call in which someone told him: “The world would be a better place if you were hit by a fast moving bus tomorrow.”

That call came hours after Fanone, who was beaten and shocked with a stun device until he lost consciousness and suffered a heart attack during the Jan. 6 riot, testified at a sentencing hearing for one his attackers Tuesday in federal court. A judge sentenced Fanone’s assailant to seven years and two months in prison after Fanone told the man, “I hope you suffer.”

Meanwhile, Florida Man is in the House and all in for killing his constituents in Florida’s Panhandle.

 

 

Kristal’s June calendar shot on June 4, 2022

This is from Newsweek‘s Anne Skinner: “Matt Gaetz Votes Against Disaster Relief Days After Hurricane Ian Hits.”

Just days after Hurricane Ian ravaged his home state, Representative Matt Gaetz was one of many Republicans to vote against a stopgap measure that would continue funding the government and provide billions of dollars in extra disaster assistanceThe House of Representatives approved a continuing resolution on Friday, giving the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the ability to spend through the Disaster Relief Fund, freeing up $15 million more in aid for disaster relief. Only 10 Republicans voted for the measure, two days after a Category 4 hurricane barreled through Florida, killing dozens and causing billions in economic damage.

Gaetz indicated he’d vote against funding to benefit government agencies earlier this week. He joined dozens of his colleagues in signing a letter that they would “do what is necessary” to prevent additional funding for the Biden administration.

Temple and Kristal immediately adopted each other as besties. Here she is on May 24, 2022.

A Monmounth University poll shows that it’s still “the economy, stupid” with many voters.  “Economic Issues Outweigh Concerns About Rights in Midterm Vote.”

Economic issues are a bigger factor in this year’s midterm elections than concerns about rights and democracy, according to the latest Monmouth (“Mon-muth”University Poll. Democrats prioritize a fairly wide range of issues from climate change to abortion, while Republicans focus on a more limited set including inflation, crime, and immigration. Independents, though, tend to hone in on one issue above all: rising prices. Further dampening Democrats’ prospects are the poor numbers President Joe Biden gets for his performance on the issues most important to independents.

Republicans have made slight gains in the public’s preference for party control of Congress since the summer. Currently, 36% of Americans say they want the GOP in charge and another 11% have no initial preference but lean toward Republican control. Democratic control is preferred by 34% with another 10% leaning toward the Democrats. The combined 47% who choose Republican control is up from 43% in August, while the 44% support level for Democratic control is down from 50%.

A majority (54%) of Americans say it is very important to have their preferred party in control of Congress. This control importance metric is slightly higher among those who want Republicans (62%) than those who want Democrats (58%) leading Congress, which is a flip of the partisan result for this question in last month’s poll. Similarly, those who want Republican leadership (65%) are somewhat more likely than those who want Democrats in charge (58%) to say they are extremely motivated to vote this year.

Kristal sleeps soundly on what is likely close to her one month birthday and her 5th day at the kathouse. It’s hard work waking everyone up every several hours for your bottle of kitten formula!

Writers Holly Otterbein and Jessica Piper of Politico assert “Weak rural turnout could hurt GOP in November. A POLITICO analysis of turnout in this year’s special elections suggests that since Dobbs, rural voters are less motivated to cast ballots than others.”

The Democratic Party’s newest star has an unlikely group to thank for his upset victory: rural voters.

Rep. Pat Ryan prevailed in a close race over his Republican opponent in an August special election in upstate New York in part because rural voters came out to the polls at lower rates than voters in more populated places in his bellwether congressional district.

The race in New York’s 19th District wasn’t unique. A POLITICO analysis of turnout data before and after Roe v. Wade was struck down in June shows that voters in rural counties were less motivated to cast ballots than those in more Democratic-leaning suburbs and cities after the Supreme Court decision. Though special elections are not a crystal ball, that could spell potential trouble for the GOP if the trend continues to the midterms in November, because rural voters, who overwhelmingly supported former President Donald Trump, are a key constituency for Republican candidates.

“Republicans are not as energized as they want or expected, and Democrats are very energized right now,” said Chris Walsh, Ryan’s campaign manager.

In four congressional special elections that have been held since June to fill vacant House seats — in Nebraska, Minnesota and New York — the portion of registered voters who cast ballots averaged 27 percent in suburban and urban counties, compared to 22 percent in rural counties, according to the analysis. Ahead of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned Roe, those three groups had turnout numbers similar to each other.

Not coincidentally, in each of the contests that saw lower rural turnout, Democratic candidates overperformed compared to President Joe Biden’s 2020 results. Democrats’ higher turnout numbers have given the party hope that voter anger over the elimination of abortion rights would turn an anticipated red wave in the midterms into more a ripple.

Kristal on the morning of May 12. This is the day after she was found flea-ridden, anemic, and dehydrated on the Elysian Fields neutral ground. She was a tiny little miracle!

Let’s hope this trend continues!

Anyway, that’s it for me! I hope you have a good week and I’ll let you know when Kristal gets home to us!  Keely, once the baby cat, is already searching for her wrestling and chasing mate!

Take care!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


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!