Posted: August 6, 2022 Filed under: caturday | Tags: abortion rights, adoption, Alex Jones, baby boxes, Chuck Schumer, conspiracy theories, Democrats' climate/health care/tax bill, Joe Manchin, reconciliation, Sandy Hook parents, state legislatures, U.S. Senate, vote-a-rama
Artist Pierre Bonnard and his cat
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
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
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 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
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
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
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.
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!
Posted: August 2, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Afghanistan, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Build Back Better, burn pits, China, Donald Trump, drone strikes, immigration, January 6 investigations, Joe Manchin, Nancy Pelosi, Taiwan, Trump family separations, veterans bill protests
I’m very pleased to report that today’s top story isn’t about Trump or his Republican enablers. That’s a very good thing for me because I’ve reached peak Trump exhaustion once again. Today Nancy Pelosi leads the politics news.
Reuters: Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, voicing U.S. ‘solidarity’ as China fumes.
TAIPEI, Aug 2 (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan late on Tuesday on a trip she said was intended to express American solidarity with the Chinese-claimed island, the first such visit in 25 years and one that risks pushing relations between Washington and Beijing to a new low.
Pelosi and her delegation disembarked from a U.S. Air Force transport plan at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei and were greeted by Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu and Sandra Oudkirk, the top U.S. representative in Taiwan.
“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Pelosi said in a statement shortly after landing. “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.” read more
China immediately condemned Pelosi’s visit, with the foreign ministry saying it seriously damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The ministry said it had lodged a strong protest with the United States.
Chinese warplanes buzzed the line dividing the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday before her arrival, and Chinese state media said People’s Liberation Army would hold exercises near Taiwan from Thursday through Sunday.
More info from CNN:
Pelosi and the congressional delegation that accompanied her said in a statement on Tuesday that the visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”
“Our discussions with Taiwan leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said. “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”
Pelosi is traveling with House Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory Meeks of New York, Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano of California and Reps. Suzan DelBene of Washington state, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Andy Kim of New Jersey.
The House speaker is expected to visit Taiwan’s presidential office and parliament on Wednesday morning (local time), a senior Taiwanese official told CNN. She will first visit the parliament before heading to the presidential office for a meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, the official said….
The American Institute in Taiwan said Pelosi’s delegation will meet with senior Taiwanese leaders “to discuss US-Taiwan relations, peace and security, economic growth and trade, the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, human rights, democratic governance, and other significant issues of mutual interest,” the institute said in a statement.
Pelosi also wrote an op-ed explaining why she chose to go to Taiwan, despite criticism. You can read it at The Washington Post: Nancy Pelosi: Why I’m leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan.
Yesterday the White House announced the death of the leader of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan: U.S. kills al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in drone strike in Kabul.
The United States has killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda and one of the world’s most-wanted terrorists, who, alongside the group’s founder, Osama bin Laden, oversaw the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Biden announced Monday evening.
Zawahiri was killed in a CIA drone strike in Kabul over the weekend, according to U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.
When U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan last August, Biden administration officials said they would retain capability for “over-the-horizon” attacks from elsewhere on terrorist forces inside Afghanistan. The attack against Zawahiri is the first known counterterrorism strike there since the withdrawal.
Speaking in a live television address from a balcony at the White House, Biden announced that days ago he had authorized a strike to kill Zawahiri. “Justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said.
The strike occurred at 9:48 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the operation. A drone fired two Hellfire missiles at Zawahiri as he stepped onto the balcony of a safe house in Kabul, where he had been living with members of his family, the official said.
Read more at the WaPo.
At NBC News, Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff report on a non-violent Biden success story: Biden administration task force reunites 400 migrant families separated under Trump.
The Biden administration has reunited 400 children with their parents after they were separated as migrants crossing the southern border under the Trump administration, said Michelle Brané, the executive director of the Family Reunification Task Force.
More than 5,000 families were separated under Trump’s 2018 “zero tolerance” policy and a 2017 pilot program and advocates estimate over 1,000 remain separated. Because the Trump administration did not keep records of which children were separated and where they were sent, the task force and lawyers working on behalf of separated families have had a difficult time identifying families to offer them the chance of reunification.
In the majority of recently reunited cases, Brané said, the parents were deported while the children remained in the U.S. Now, parents are given the opportunity to come to the U.S. on paid travel, bring other members of their family who are dependent on them, and live and work in the U.S. legally for three years.
Lawyers for the families have advocated for legal permanent status on behalf of separated families, but so far the Biden administration has not agreed to that provision.
Brané said the reunification also includes mental health services for families both before and after reunification. She said many of the families have suffered from profound mental health issues after their separation and counseling is often needed before they reunify.
“You don’t want to just throw kids into an environment with a parent they may not have seen for five years,” Brané said.
Click the link to read the rest.
Republicans are licking their wounds after the public reaction to their votes against health care for veterans exposed to burn pits. Politico: Senate GOP backtracks after veterans bill firestorm.
Senate Republicans are reversing course on a veterans health care bill, signaling they’ll now help it quickly move to President Joe Biden’s desk after weathering several days of intense criticism for delaying the legislation last week.
Republicans insist their decision to hold up the bill, which expands health care for veterans exposed to toxic substances while on active duty, was unrelated to the deal on party-line legislation that top Democrats struck last week. The GOP blocked the bill hours after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced an agreement on a health care, climate and tax package — angering Republicans who thought the Democrats-only plan would be much narrower.
Regardless of their reasoning, the GOP was quickly forced to play defense against both Democrats and veterans’ advocates who were caught off-guard by Republican delaying tactics after the party greenlit a nearly identical bill in June.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to respond to a question Monday about why the legislation was held up.
“It will pass this week,” he said.
Other Republicans in Senate leadership struck a similar tone. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told POLITICO he would “expect it to pass” and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), McConnell’s No. 2, echoed that at “some point this is going to pass and it will pass big.”
In another potential win for Democrats in Congress, Joe Manchin finally came through with something good. William Saletan at The Bulwark (link above):
Joe Manchin has rescued the Democratic agenda. After blocking President Biden’s Build Back Better plan for nearly a year—as well as subsequent, pared-down versions of the legislation—the West Virginia senator has reversed course. Last Thursday he endorsed a revised $400 billion package that focuses on health insurance subsidies, cutting the cost of prescription drugs, and funding new energy technologies to reduce carbon emissions.
With Manchin’s vote, the bill is likely to pass. But he isn’t just voting for it; he’s selling it. Over the weekend, he appeared on all five Sunday morning talk shows—a rare feat often referred to as a “full Ginsburg”—to make his case for the bill. It was an eye roll-worthy display of political spin. Here’s a summary of his talking points.
(Abridged–You’ll need to go to the Bulwark to read all the details.)
1. It’s not Build Back Better. It’s the Inflation Reduction Act.
The vast majority of the new bill comes from Biden’s BBB framework. Most Democrats liked BBB and would be happy to celebrate the passage of these elements of it. But Manchin, who represents a conservative state, doesn’t want to be associated with BBB. He doesn’t want to look like he’s saving the Democratic agenda. He wants to look like he’s killing it.
2. It’s not spending. It’s investment.
“I couldn’t get there with Build Back Better. It was $3.5 trillion of spending,” Manchin explained on CNN’s State of the Union. In contrast, he argued, the Inflation Reduction Act knocked “$3.5 trillion dollars of spending down to $400 billion of investment.” On Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, and This Week, he made the same pitch: BBB was a “spending bill,” but the IRA was an “investment bill.”
3. It doesn’t raise taxes. It closes loopholes.
On Fox News Sunday, Manchin insisted that his bill’s establishment of a 15 percent minimum tax for billion-dollar companies—up from zero percent—wasn’t really a tax increase. “It does not raise taxes,” he told Bret Baier. “All we did was close loopholes.” Thirty seconds later, Manchin repeated, “We did not raise taxes. We’ve closed loopholes. . . . I made sure there was no tax increases in this whatsoever.”
4. It’s not a green bill. It’s red, white, and blue.
In much of the United States, being “green” is poCpular. Restaurants, grocery stories, and retailers advertise it. But Manchin, who represents a coal state, seems to have decided that among his target audience, “green” is a dirty word. So he’s pointedly rejecting it.
“This is not a green deal. It’s not a Republican deal. It’s not a Democrat deal. It is a red, white, and blue deal,” Manchin declared on CNN. A few minutes later, he repeated: “It’s definitely not a green bill. This is a red, white, and blue bill.” On Fox, he delivered the same message: “It’s not a green bill. This is a red, white, and blue bill.
There are a few Trump investigation stories today.
CNN: Retired DC cop who testified before January 6 committee says Trump ‘adamantly’ wanted to go to Capitol.
A retired Washington, DC, police officer who was part of Donald Trump’s motorcade on January 6, 2021, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday night that the then-President was adamant about going to the US Capitol as the riot unfolded.
The comments by Mark Robinson, who has testified to the January 6 committee, further corroborate key details first revealed by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who spoke at length about Trump’s behaviorto the House select committee. Hutchinson said that she was told that Trump became “irate” when informed by security that he would not be going to the Capitol on January 6, because the situation was not secure.
Robinson was not physically with Trump on January 6. He was in the lead car of the motorcade and said that he learned Trump wanted to go to the Capitol through communications from the Secret Service.
“We’ve heard it several times while it was on the motorcade. I think during the speech, shortly thereafter, he had finished the speech, that the President was getting into the motorcade and he was upset. And he adamantly wanted to go to the Capitol,” Robinson told Lemon. “And even when we departed from the Ellipse it was repeated again. … It was a heated argument in the limo. And he wanted to definitely go to the Capitol.” [….]
“I think it would have probably encouraged more rioting. And (the rioters would have) felt supported. If the presidential motorcade came in support of them. So I think the insurrectionists probably would have felt as though they had the support of the President,” Robinson said.
More details at the CNN link.
Two more Trump investigation stories to check out:
Politico: Judge rejects Trump effort to toss lawsuits accusing him of Jan. 6 conspiracy.
The New York Times: Top Democrats, Alleging Cover-Up, Seek Testimony on Secret Service Texts.
I hope you all have a great Tuesday!
Posted: October 29, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Build Back Better plan, CIA black sites, democracy, Facebook name change, Filibuster, Gender Equality, George W. Bush, Guantanamo, Joe Manchin, Mark Zukerberg is evil, National Cat Day, paid family leave, right to vote, Torture
Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast of Tiffany’s publicity photo by Howell Conant, 1960
Happy National Cat Day!!
47ABC: National Cat Day shines light on fostering, adopting.
SALISBURY, Md. – Friday is National Cat Day, a day all about celebrating our feline friends, but also about raising awareness of adopting and fostering.
This time of year especially, local shelters tell us they’re very busy with kittens and are in need of fosters.
Arynn Brucie with the Brandywine Valley SPCA says adopting and fostering cats and kittens are equally important, and National Cat Day can shed a light on all of the four legged friends who are looking for temporary and permanent homes.
“The shelter is a great stop for them, but not necessarily great long term, so for the older kitties that may not be adjusting well to the shelter, fostering is great for that, kittens that come in without a mom, or super young or a mom with kittens that may not have a soft nice place to land, fostering is really important for that,” she said.
According to nationaltoday.com, National Cat Day was founded in 2005 by Colleen Paige, a lifestyle writer who set out to celebrate beloved pet cats while also putting a spotlight on the thousands still waiting to be rescued.
Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak and Pyewacket. Promo for “Bell, Book and Candle” (1958)
In celebration of this year’s event, here are some facts, tips and must-have feline finds for any cat lover:
- Cats have been companion animals to humans since ancient times. Research suggests that cats first lived close to humans and primarily served as pest control before being domesticated as pets.
- Cats have been sharing our daily lives for a long time. It’s estimated that cats were first domesticated in Egypt between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. Today, there are more than 400 million pet cats worldwide and around 90 million pet cats in the United States.
- Cats’ whiskers help them navigate their surroundings. While face whiskers are the most obvious, cats also have object-sensing hairs throughout their bodies.
- Most cats experience a euphoric reaction to catnip. Purring, pawing, rolling and romping are common reactions. Catnip is a safe treat that many felines enjoy as much as their humans enjoy watching their reactions.
- There are a lot of cats in need of rescue. According to the ASPCA, about 3.2 million cats end up in animal shelters each year. Spaying and neutering cats are vital to preventing unwanted litters of kittens.
- Pet cat ownership increased during the pandemic. A 2021 survey by the American Pet Products Association found that 14% of respondents got a new pet in the past year, many of whom chose to get a cat.
Here’s what’s happening in non-cat news:
Jill Filipovic at The Guardian: Joe Manchin single-handedly denied US families paid leave. That’s just cruel.
Americans will remain some of the last people on the planet to have no right to paid leave when they have children, and for that, you can thank Joe Manchin.
To be fair, 50 Republicans are to blame for this as well. All 50 of them oppose Biden’s paid family leave plan, and none were expected to vote for this bill. If even a few of them had been willing to cross the aisle to support parents and new babies – to be, one might say, “pro-life” and “pro-family” – then Manchin would not have the power he does to deny paid family leave to millions of American parents. So let’s not forget this reality, too: most Democrats want to create a paid family leave program. Republicans do not.
Sigourney Weaver in Alien, 1979
But Manchin’s actions are particularly insulting and egregious because he is a Democrat. He enjoys party support and funding. He benefits when Democrats do popular things. And now, he’s standing in the way of a policy that the overwhelming majority of Democrats want, and that is resoundingly popular with the American public, including conservatives and Republicans.
Paid family leave brings a long list of benefits to families, from healthier children to stronger marriages. And it benefits the country by keeping more working-age people in the workforce – when families don’t have paid leave, mothers drop out, a dynamic we’ve seen exacerbated by the pandemic. By some estimates, paid family leave could increase US GDP by billions of dollars.
This is good policy. But it’s also a policy that is, in large part, about gender equality. While paid leave is (or would have been) available to any new parent, the reality is that it’s overwhelmingly women who are the primary caregivers for children, it’s overwhelmingly women who birth children, and it’s overwhelmingly women who are pushed out of the paid workforce when they have kids.
Read more at the The Guardian.
Not to worry though, we can also thank Manchin for preserving the filibuster (sarcasm). Joyce White Vance at MSNBC: Democracy is dying a slow death in America. At least we have the filibuster!
Those who suggest we should sacrifice the right to vote in order to preserve the filibuster are telling a fairy tale about a democracy gone bad.
As of this month, 19 states have passed 33 new laws since the 2020 election that will make it harder for Americans to vote. Using false allegations of voter fraud like a monster beneath the bed, Republican state legislatures have passed laws that make it harder to register to vote, stay registered, cast a ballot and have it counted. We’re already entering the next wave of voting rights violations, as data from the 2020 census is stretched and pulled into politically gerrymandered districts that will be with us for the decade.
These laws will make it much more difficult for some voters — and especially for people of color, people with disabilities, and people of lower economic status — to exercise their rights. Some of the statutes veer perilously close to enabling future candidates to do what former President Donald Trump and his allies attempted in 2020: cancel just enough votes to win.
Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita, 1960
Democrats have passed legislation in the House of Representatives that would provide a fix. But it’s come to a standstill in the Senate. That’s true even though Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., morphed the House’s Help America Vote Act into the less beefy but still important Freedom to Vote Act. He thought, unlike anyone who’s been paying attention to Congress over the last few years, that he could attract Republican votes. Whether Republicans are afraid of their party’s de facto leader or afraid of their own political prospects if all of their constituents are free to vote, the Senate floor vote last week made the state of play clear. We are losing ground, and dangerously so, in the fight to ensure American voters can exercise their most essential right in our democracy. But that’s OK! Because we’ll have something much more important, at least according to the Republicans and to Sens. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — the filibuster.
In 2024, your state legislature may decide that because your majority-Black county voted Democratic in the presidential election, there must have been fraud involved. They may remove your local election officials and replace them with their own handpicked people who will “find” enough votes to “fix” the outcome of the election for the Republican — all legal because the Senate failed to pass the law that would have prevented states from doing this. When your vote isn’t counted, you can console yourself with the knowledge that the filibuster is still there for you.
I wonder which side Manchin and Sinema would have been supported in the Civil War?
Mark Zukerberg–another candidate for most valuable player in the destruction of democracy–announced yesterday that he’s changing Facebook’s name to Meta. Jason Koebler at Vice News: Zuckerberg Announces Fantasy World Where Facebook Is Not a Horrible Company.
Moments before announcing Facebook is changing its name to “Meta” and detailing the company’s “metaverse” plans during a Facebook Connect presentation on Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg said “some people will say this isn’t a time to focus on the future,” referring to the massive, ongoing scandal plaguing his company relating to the myriad ways Facebook has made the world worse. “I believe technology can make our lives better. The future will be built by those willing to stand up and say this is the future we want.”
Marlon Brando in The Godfather, 1972
The future Zuckerberg went on to pitch was a delusional fever dream cribbed most obviously from dystopian science fiction and misleading or outright fabricated virtual reality product pitches from the last decade. In the “metaverse—an “embodied” internet where we are, basically, inside the computer via a headset or other reality-modifying technology of some sort—rather than hang out with people in real life you could meet up with them as Casper-the-friendly-ghost-style holograms to do historically fun and stimulating activities such as attend concerts or play basketball.
These presentations had the familiar vibe of an overly-ambitious video game reveal. In the concert example, one friend is present in reality while the other is not; the friend joins the concert inexplicably as a blue Force ghost and the pair grab “tickets” to a “metaverse afterparty” in which NFTs are for sale. This theme continued throughout as people wandered seamlessly into virtual fantasy worlds over and over, and the presentation lacked any sense of what this so-called metaverse would look like in practice. It was flagrantly abstract, showing more the dream of the metaverse than anything resembling reality. We’re told that two real people, filmed with real cameras on real couches, are in a “digital space.” When Zuckerberg reveals that Facebook is working on augmented reality glasses that could make any of this even a possibility, it doesn’t show any actual glasses, only “simulated footage” of augmented reality.
“We have to fit holograms displays, projectors, batteries, radios, custom silicon chips, cameras, speakers, sensors to map the world around you, and more, into glasses that are five millimeters thick,” Zuckerberg says.
Whatever the metaverse does look like, it is virtually guaranteed to not look or feel anything like what Facebook showed on Thursday.
Read more delusional stuff at the link. I’m not sure what any of this has to do with the mess I see when I dare to open Facebook.
Of course George W. Bush contributed to the anti-democratic world we’re in today. Here’s a flashback for you from Carol Rosenberg at The New York Times: For First Time in Public, a Detainee Describes Torture at C.I.A. Black Sites.
GUANTÁNAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — A suburban Baltimore high school graduate turned Al Qaeda courier, speaking to a military jury for the first time, gave a detailed account on Thursday of the brutal forced feedings, crude waterboarding and other physical and sexual abuse he endured during his 2003 to 2006 detention in the C.I.A.’s overseas prison network.
Art Carney in Harry and Tonto
Appearing in open court, Majid Khan, 41, became the first former prisoner of the black sites to openly describe, anywhere, the violent and cruel “enhanced interrogation techniques” that agents used to extract information and confessions from terrorism suspects.
For more than two hours, he spoke about dungeonlike conditions, humiliating stretches of nudity with only a hood on his head, sometimes while his arms were chained in ways that made sleep impossible, and being intentionally nearly drowned in icy cold water in tubs at two sites, once while a C.I.A. interrogator counted down from 10 before water was poured into his nose and mouth.
Soon after his capture in Pakistan in March 2003, Mr. Khan said, he cooperated with his captors, telling them everything he knew, with the hope of release. “Instead, the more I cooperated, the more I was tortured,” he said.
The dramatic accounting capped a day in which eight U.S. military officers were selected to serve on a jury, which will deliberate Friday on his official sentence in the range of 25 to 40 years, starting from his guilty plea in February 2012.
Read the rest at the NYT.
More stories to check out:
Will Sommer at The Daily Beast: He’s Writing Tucker’s Deranged Jan. 6 Movie—After Directing a Pizzagater’s Opus.
The Washington Post: Flight attendant suffers broken bones in ‘one of the worst displays of unruly behavior’ in the skies.
Reuters: Trump’s real-estate empire pays the price for poisonous politics.
The Bulwark: Truth Social Violated Mastodon’s ToS; Trump’s Entire Platform Might Now Be DOA.
The Washington Post: Chief federal judge in D.C. assails ‘almost schizophrenic’ Jan. 6 prosecutions: ‘The rioters were not mere protesters’
Buzzfeed News: White Supremacists Used Racist Slurs And Cursed In Bizarre Opening Statements For The Charlottesville Trial.
Jane Mayer at The New Yorker: A Retiring Democrat Places Blame for Paralysis in Congress.
Posted: October 26, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: abortion, Build Back Better plan, Climate change, Federal Spending, Joe Manchin, nor'easter, Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court, weather
The Northeaster, by Winslow Homer
A huge nor’easter is moving up the coast and will likely hit us this afternoon. New Jersey and New York have already declared states of emergency. It has already been pouring rain here for the past two days and it will continue into tomorrow. We are expecting 70 mph wind gusts, maybe a bomb cyclone, and, of course, power outages. I just hope I don’t lose power. I need to get a better flashlight.
The Washington Post: Intensifying nor’easter lashing Northeast with flooding rain and high winds.
A storm offshore the Mid-Atlantic explosively intensified Monday night, and it is buffeting the Northeast with strong winds and flooding rains.
Flash flood watches are up from extreme northern Delaware and New Jersey through eastern Pennsylvania and most of southern New England. Up to five inches of rain are possible, falling on soils that are largely saturated following an exceptionally wet summer. Parts of New Jersey have already seen more than 4 inches, with rainfall rates topping an inch per hour….
Wind advisories also stretch from the nation’s capital to the coastline of Maine, with a high-wind warning up for the shorelines of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where gusts could top 70 mph. The nor’easter is the first of two sprawling storm systems that will bring inclement weather to the East Coast this week. Its rate of intensification is expected to qualify it as a “bomb cyclone,” or a storm that strengthens with unusual haste.
The storm is the final act of a destructive ensemble that brought tornadoes to the Ozarks and Midwest on Sunday and a line of strong thunderstorms to parts of the Mid-Atlantic overnight Monday, which unloaded 1 to 3 inches of rain from Washington to Philadelphia. By Tuesday, rain and downpours were exiting offshore of the Delmarva Peninsula, spiraling into a new developing low pressure center taking shape off the East Coast.
But nearly half of Americans are deluded about what causes climate change, according to a new poll.
Vice News: 45% of Americans Don’t Believe Humans Cause Climate Change, VICE News/Guardian Poll Shows.
This year was marked by several unprecedented natural disasters, including a “heat dome” marked by sweltering temperatures of up to 113 F that plagued the Pacific Northwest, killing hundreds, and record-breaking wildfire seasons that razed entire towns and displaced thousands. Experts linked the string of natural disasters to the climate crisis, and yet, many Americans are still struggling to understand whether and why the generation-defining crisis is happening.
Emil Carlsen, Nantasket Beach Nor’easter, 1882
The poll, which surveyed 1,000 Americans on behalf of VICE News, the Guardian, and Covering Climate Now, by YouGov, comes less than a week before leaders and delegates from around the world meet in Glasgow, Scotland, for COP26, the United Nations’ climate change conference. The data shows that climate change is a top voter issue in the U.S., behind health care and social programs. For college grads and Democrats, climate change jumped to top spot (for Democrats it was tied with health care).
But while 69.5 percent of respondents believe global warming is happening, they were divided on what’s causing it. Forty-five percent don’t think humans are mostly to blame for global warming, opting instead to blame “natural changes in the environment” or “other,” and 8.3 percent denied global warming is happening altogether.
That’s mostly due to Republicans (55.4 percent) and independents (33 percent) though, who were far more likely than Democrats (17.2 percent) to believe “natural causes” have led to global warming. Young people and educated folks too were significantly more likely to believe humans are to blame for climate change.
Republicans aren’t satisfied with destroying U.S. democracy and killing as many people as possible with Covid-19; apparently they are also determined to hasten the end of the human race. Of course Republican are getting help with their goal of ending democracy and doing nothing about climate change–from a so-called Democrat.
John Nichols at The Nation: Joe Manchin’s Surefire Strategy to Ensure That Democrats Lose in 2022.
If Joe Manchin gets what he wants in negotiations with the Biden White House and his fellow Democratic senators regarding climate policy, which now seems likely, it could have a devastating impact on the planet—and on Democrats’ prospects in 2022.
How so? Let’s answer that question by asking and answering two other questions.
First: Name an issue that young people—an increasingly important and frequently decisive voting bloc—are passionate about? When the US Conference of Mayors surveyed potential voters between the ages of 18 and 29 in 2020, 80 percent said the climate crisis was “a major threat to human life on earth as we know it.” By a 3-1 margin, young people said “bold measures” needed to be taken to address that threat.
Greg Cartmell, October Nor’easter
Second: Name the issue that Democrats are now talking about downplaying in the ”Build Back Better” agenda in order to secure the West Virginia senator’s support? The Biden administration is by all accounts preparing to cut from the budget plan the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), a key climate initiative that would use a combination of incentives and mandates to get utilities to embrace renewable energy.
Much of the serious reporting on the issue has focused on the devastating impact that losing those clean-energy provisions could have on upcoming climate negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Without them, it will be tougher for Biden to convincingly pledge a 50 percent reduction in US carbon emissions by 2030. That could undermine negotiations on the issue, according to Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State. So serious is the threat that Mann greeted the news of Manchin’s push to abandon the CEPP by declaring, “Joe Manchin just launched a hand grenade at Glasgow.”
Read the rest at The Nation.
More depressing articles on Biden’s shrinking “Build Back Better” legislation:
The Washington Post: Additional Medicare, Medicaid benefits may be whittled or cut as Democrats woo moderates.
Democrats’ sweeping plans to bolster Medicare and Medicaid benefits have been scaled back amid an assault from industry groups and opposition from centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), with popular coverage expansions likely to be narrowed in hopes of reaching a deal this week.
A proposal to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision benefits is in danger of falling from the tax-and-spending package rapidly taking shape in Congress. A framework to expand Medicaid to cover Americans in a dozen mostly Southern states has also been reworked.
Meanwhile, drug-pricing reforms have come under sustained attack from pharmaceutical lobbyists, with some Democrats now balking at empowering Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. Scaling back that proposal, which was expected to cut government spending by more than $700 billion over a decade, would complicate Democrats’ ambition to subsidize their coverage expansions.
Manchin told reporters on Monday that he had concerns about some of Democrats’ signature proposals, underscoring the fragile state of negotiations. “You’ve got to stabilize” Medicare’s long-term finances before adding new benefits, the senator said, adding that he thought the Medicaid proposal was “unfair” to states like his, which have already expanded the program under the Affordable Care Act.
The infighting over health care also prompted Democratic leadership this month to consider a plan to delay some of the party’s health agenda to next year, including a plan to repeal a Trump-era ban on prescription drug rebates, hoping that election-year deadlines would force lawmakers to seal deals that are currently proving elusive, said three people with knowledge of the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
That won’t excite Democrats about voting in 2022. And Bernie Sanders is fighting back. The Hill: Sanders draws red lines on Medicare expansion, drug pricing plan in spending bill.
Karol Wyckoff, Nor’easter
Robert Reich at The Guardian: Is Biden’s entire agenda about to shrink into nothingness?
This week, Democrats either reach an agreement on Biden’s social and climate agenda or the agenda may shrink into meaninglessness. The climate measures in particular need to be settled before Biden heads to Scotland for the UN climate summit this weekend, so other nations will see our commitment to reduce carbon emissions.
On Sunday, Biden met with key Democrats to work out spending and tax provisions. Yet every senate Republican and at least two senate Democrats continue to assert that Biden’s agenda is too costly.
Too costly? Really? Compare the Biden’s social and climate package’s current compromise tab of $2tn (spread out over the next 10 years) with:
The $1.9 trillion Trump Republican tax cut that went mostly to the wealthy and large corporations.
Americans were promised that its benefits would “trickle down” to average workers. They didn’t. Corporations used them to finance more stock buybacks. The wealthy used them to buy more shares of stock (and shares of private-equity and hedge funds).
The Trump Republican tax cut should be repealed to pay for Biden’s social and climate package. There is no good reason to retain it. But no senate Republican will vote for its repeal, nor will Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema – making it a political non-starter in a chamber where Democrats have just half the votes.
The $2.1 trillion that America’s 750 billionaires have raked in just since the start of the pandemic.
You might think that at least a portion of this windfall should help pay for Biden’s agenda since much of it has been the result of monopoly power (for example, Amazon’s dominance over e-commerce during the pandemic).
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is proposing a “Billionaires Income Tax,” to be paid by the roughly 750 Americans with $1bn in assets or $100m in income for three consecutive years. It would be a yearly tax on the increasing value of their assets – such as stocks and bonds – regardless of when they sell. They could still write off losses every year. Interestingly, neither Sinema nor West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the other holdout, has voiced opposition to Wyden’s proposal.
The nearly $8 trillion we’ll be spending on the military over the next 10 years.
The United States already spends more on our military than the next 10 biggest military spenders in the world combined.
Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee unveiled a nearly $726bn budget for the Defense Department in 2022. That was about $20bn more than Biden requested. Some $14bn in other funds are set aside for the Pentagon in separate military construction and energy appropriations bills, bringing the total budget to about $740 billion. Over ten years, that comes close to $8tn.
More at the link. Also see this from The Washington Post Editorial Board: Build Back Better is getting worse and worse.
Karen Blackwood, A Nor’easter Coming
I’ll end with this piece by Erin Gloria Ryan at The Daily Beast: These Aren’t Justices. They’re Used Car Salesmen, and They’re Coming for Your Abortion Rights.
One of the oldest sales tricks in the book is the one where the salesperson presents the potential buyer with an extremely crappy option first, and follows that up with an only moderately crappy second option. The potential buyer, dazzled by the jump in quality between options one and two, won’t scrutinize option two as much, because it’s so much better than option one. This has been employed by slimy realtors, wedding planners, and used car salesmen.
And now, we’ve reached the point in the American experiment where the Supreme Court’s new conservative majority has resorted to a cheap sales tactic in an attempt to rehabilitate its image. Lower the customer’s expectations enough, conventional wisdom goes, and they’ll thank you for ripping them off.
The high court agreed to hear the Biden administration’s challenge to the law on Nov. 1, on an expedited schedule. Legal observers predict that the court will toss the law out. I—and many wary pro-choicers—predict that after tossing the law out, the media will fawn over the court’s newfound social moderation, and the Susan Collinses of the world will crow that they were right, the hysterical feminists were wrong, and the Supreme Court was never going to toss abortion rights on—as Mike Pence would say—“the ash-heap of history.”
The following month SCOTUS will hear oral arguments in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health, testing the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that directly confronts Roe v. Wade by banning abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation. Roe established in 1973 that the government has no right to interfere with abortion access prior to fetal viability—around 24.5 weeks’ gestation (a full-term pregnancy takes 40 weeks). Dobbs is the direct challenge to Roe that conservative activists have had a hard-on for since Reagan.
Ryan argues that, using the “smokescreen” provided by the ridiculous Texas law, the right wing justices will use the Alabama law to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Sorry this post is so full of woe. Hope you all have a pleasant Tuesday; I’ll be taking a news break for the next few hours at least.
Posted: October 5, 2021 Filed under: just because, morning reads | Tags: Debt Ceiling, Donald Trump, Fiona Hill, Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, Mitch McConnell, Russia, Vladimir Putin
A new book about the Trump Administration was released today, and this one is likely to be much more serious than the many gossipy Trump books that have preceded it. This one is a memoir by Fiona Hill, who served in Trump’s White House as a Russia expert and then testified in the impeachment hearings.
Here’s the New York Times review by Jennifer Szalai: In a Memoir, the Impeachment Witness Fiona Hill Recounts Her Journey From ‘Blighted World’ to White House.
The arresting title of Fiona Hill’s new book, “There Is Nothing for You Here,” is what her father told her when she was growing up in Bishop Auckland, a decaying coal-mining town in North East England. He loved her, and so he insisted that she had to leave.
Hill took his advice to heart — studying Russian and history at St. Andrews in Scotland, sojourning in Moscow, getting a Ph.D. at Harvard and eventually serving in the administrations of three American presidents, most recently as President Trump’s top adviser on Russia and Europe. “I take great pride in the fact that I’m a nonpartisan foreign policy expert,” she said before the House in November 2019, when she delivered her plain-spoken testimony at the hearings for the (first) impeachment of President Trump. But for her, “nonpartisan” doesn’t mean she’s in thrall to bloodless, anodyne ideas totally disconnected from her personal experience. She wrote this book because she was “acutely aware,” she says, “of how my own early life laid the path for everything I did subsequently.”
Sure enough, “There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century” weaves together these two selves, slipping back and forth between the unsentimental memoir reflected in its melancholy title and the wonkish guide promised in its inspirational subtitle. The combination, however unlikely, mostly works — though by the end, the litany of policy prescriptions comes to sound a bit too much like a paper issued by the Brookings Institution, where Hill is currently a fellow. When recounting her life, Hill is a lucid writer, delivering her reminiscences in a vivid and wry style. As much as I wanted more of Hill the memoirist and less of Hill the expert, I began to sense that giving voice to both was the only way she could feel comfortable writing a book about herself.
Looked at from afar, Hill’s story seems like a triumphant tale of striving and accomplishment. Born in 1965, she grew up in a “blighted world.” Her father followed the men in his family into the mines when he was 14; as the industry started to collapse in the 1960s, he found a job as a hospital porter. Hill’s mother worked as a midwife. As late as the 1970s, Hill’s grandparents lived in a subsidized rowhouse without “mod cons,” or modern conveniences, including indoor plumbing. Her grandfather had been pierced by the “windy pick” — the pneumatic drill — and had to wear a brace around his pelvis “to keep his battered insides in” for the rest of his life.
Fiona Hill is worn in at the House Intelligence Committee Open Impeachment Hearings.
Read more about Hill’s early life at the link. Here’s a bit about her experiences in the Trump White House.
Instead of making the usual insider-memoir move of fixating on all the brazenly outrageous behavior — the bizarre comments, the outlandish tweets — Hill notices his insecurities, the soft spots that, she says, made him “exquisitely vulnerable” to manipulation. Yes, she writes, the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election — but unlike the #Resistance crowd, which insists that such meddling was decisive, Hill is more circumspect, pointing out that Vladimir Putin wasn’t the force that tore the country apart; he was simply exploiting fissures that were already there.
Just as concerning to her was the way that people around Trump would wreak havoc on one another by playing to his “fragile ego” — spreading rumors that their rivals in the administration had said something negative about Trump was often enough to land those rivals on what the president called his “nasty list.” Hill says that watching Trump fulminate made her feel like Alice in Wonderland watching the Queen of Hearts, with her constant shouts of “Off with their heads!” In Hill’s telling, Trump’s norm-breaking was so flagrant and incessant that she compares him, in her matter-of-fact way, to a flasher. “Trump revealed himself,” she writes, “and people just got used to it.”
But neither Trump nor Putin — who was the subject of one of Hill’s previous books — is what she really wants to talk about. What she sees happening in the United States worries her. Economic collapse, structural racism, unrelieved suffering: Even without Trump, she says, none of the country’s enormous problems will go away without enormous efforts to address them. Hill the expert points to heartening examples of benevolent capitalism at work. But Hill the memoirist knows in her bones that the neoliberal approach, left to its own devices, simply won’t do.
I cannot wait to read this book. More articles about it to check out:
Yahoo News: Trump’s fixation was on Putin himself rather than Russia, says fmr. WH adviser.
Raw Story: Trump’s former Russia expert has a message for voters if he runs in 2024
Yahoo News: Fiona Hill says Trump was a national security risk because he was ‘so vulnerable to manipulation based on the fragility of his ego’
Financial Times: There Is Nothing for You Here by Fiona Hill — memoir from Trump White House.
Finally, Newsweek has an excerpt from the book: Donald Trump Called Fiona Hill ‘Darling,’ Thought She Was a Press Secretary.
In other news, we’re still facing the possible default of the United States leading to a global financial crisis. Jonathan Weisman at The New York Times: As the U.S. Hurtles Toward a Debt Crisis, What Does McConnell Want?
In March 2006, as the government veered dangerously close to a default, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the No. 2 Republican, let the Bush White House know he was two votes short of what he needed to raise the legal limit on federal borrowing.
Andrew H. Card Jr., then the White House chief of staff, began working the phones. He soon found two Democrats willing to break ranks and vote to put the legislation over the top. But Mr. McConnell was holding out for something else entirely, hoping to extract concessions from President George W. Bush as the price for uniting Republicans around lifting the limit.
“I don’t need your damned votes,” he snapped at Mr. Card. He lifted the debt ceiling with Republicans only.
Mr. Card never learned what the Senate leader wanted, but he tells the story for a reason: Mr. McConnell has long used the periodic need to raise the government’s borrowing limit as a moment of leverage to secure a policy win, as have leaders of both parties.
But two weeks before a potentially catastrophic default, Mr. McConnell has yet to reveal what he wants, telling President Biden in a letter on Monday, “We have no list of demands.”
Instead, he appears to want to sow political chaos for Democrats while insulating himself and other Republicans from an issue that has the potential to divide them.
Mr. McConnell has said the government must not be allowed to stop paying its debts; he has also said he will not let any Republicans vote to raise the limit, while moving repeatedly to block Democrats from doing so themselves. Instead, he has prescribed a path forward for Democrats: Use a complicated budget process known as reconciliation to maneuver around a Republican filibuster that he refuses to lift.
Asked what he wanted, that was his answer: “As I have said for two months, I want them do it through reconciliation.”
So what’s the problem then? Why don’t the Democrats just do it through reconciliation? Of course that is another problem, because Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema are standing in the way of the reconciliation bill. And what the hell do they want? A couple of reads on those two:
CNN: Manchin breaks with party leaders over strategy on debt ceiling and Biden’s economic package.
Read more at the link.
Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: What’s Wrong With Kyrsten Sinema?
In 2003, Joe Lieberman, at the time one of the worst Democratic senators, traveled to Arizona to campaign for his party’s presidential nomination and was regularly greeted by antiwar demonstrators. “He’s a shame to Democrats,” said the organizer of a protest outside a Tucson hotel, a left-wing social worker named Kyrsten Sinema. “I don’t even know why he’s running. He seems to want to get Republicans voting for him — what kind of strategy is that?”
It was a good question, and one that many people would like to ask Sinema herself these days. People sometimes describe the Arizona senator as a centrist, but that seems the wrong term for someone who’s been working to derail some of the most broadly popular parts of Joe Biden’s agenda, corporate tax increases and reforms to lower prescription drug prices. Instead, she’s just acting as an obstructionist, seeming to bask in the approbation of Republicans who will probably never vote for her.
A “Saturday Night Live” skit this weekend captured her absurdist approach to negotiating the reconciliation bill that contains almost the entirety of Biden’s agenda. “What do I want from this bill?” asked the actress playing Sinema. “I’ll never tell.” It sometimes seems as if what Sinema wants is for people to sit around wondering what Sinema wants.
When Sinema ran for Senate, the former left-wing firebrand reportedly told her advisers that she hoped to be the next John McCain, an independent force willing to buck her own party. Voting against a $15 minimum wage this year, she gave a thumbs down — accompanied by an obnoxious little curtsy — that seemed meant to recall the gesture McCain made when he voted against repealing key measures of the Affordable Care Act in 2017.
But people admired McCain because they felt he embodied a consistent set of values, a straight-talking Captain America kind of patriotism. Despite his iconoclastic image, he was mostly a deeply conservative Republican; as CNN’s Harry Enten points out, on votes where the parties were split, he sided with his party about 90 percent of the time.
Sinema, by contrast, breaks with her fellow Democrats much more often. There hasn’t been a year since she entered Congress, Enten wrote, when she’s voted with her party more than 75 percent of the time. But what really makes her different from McCain is that nobody seems to know what she stands for.
Click the link to read more.
There’s lots more news out there. I’ll post more links in the comments. As always, this is an open thread.